What can be done about much-loved Chapel Walk in Sheffield?

It has character and it has history but Chapel Walk in Sheffield lacks the most vital ingredients - shops and shoppers.
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The ginnel, which dates back to the middle ages, has a different feel to the wide open spaces of Fargate and used to be a bustling back alley.

But due to a shift of retail to The Moor, the rise of online shopping and months of scaffolding - which made it a forbidding and gloomy tunnel - its fortunes have fallen faster than many places.

Then the pandemic hit.

Chapel Walk is down on its luck. Picture Scott MerryleesChapel Walk is down on its luck. Picture Scott Merrylees
Chapel Walk is down on its luck. Picture Scott Merrylees
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But people still love Chapel Walk and hope it can one day be successful again.

Jules Gray, of Hop Hideout based in Kommune food hall, considered it when moving her shop from Abbeydale Road.

But the rent and rates were too high.

She said: “It’s been half empty for a long time. People don’t realise the cost of setting up, the ongoing costs, plus there are the potential costs of Brexit on goods and services. But it could be an amazing, thriving independent, creative street.”

Chapel Walk in Sheffield city centreChapel Walk in Sheffield city centre
Chapel Walk in Sheffield city centre

Sheffield Business Improvement District lists 16 businesses in Chapel Walk, from Paperchase at one end to Dr Marten’s at the other.

But attracting new tenants is tricky.

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On David Walsh’s LinkedIn page, Matt Vause, marketeer at TC Harrison Group, said: “Pop a cover over it and make it an 'independents arcade' - fill it with Sheffield Makers and create a unique creative space for small boutique retailers.”

Steve Robinson had a suggestion for landlords: “A possible 50 per cent reduction in rent for the first year to encourage business, plus 10 per cent rise year-on-year for the next four years increasing to the £12,000 annually. Everyone wins with small sacrifices.”

Mural artist Sarah Yates, aka Faunagraphic, said: “I think it should be business rates free and affordable rents for start ups. I tried to set up such a business and ended up leaving the city because it was impossible.

"Usually the creatives are the soul, although at the bottom end of earnings at first. They shouldn’t be left at the edge when they bring the excitement, that’s what gives the city vibrancy.”

Richard Mills, CEO at SleepCogni, said: “Maybe a Harry Potter themed 'Diagon Alley' something to bring the families into town.

“The Steel Cauldron at Broomhill attracts people from miles around. Have the council offer it to them for 12 months for free, the whole walk and see what they do with it.”

But landlords control rents and the Government sets rates.

Nalin Seneviratne, director of city centre development at Sheffield City Council, said: “Chapel Walk is not owned by the council, and therefore we do not set the rents or the rates here. The rents are set by the landlord and the government sets its rates through the Valuation Office.

“We have submitted a bid to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund which, if we’re successful, would help us to encourage landlords to work with us on reinvigorating Fargate and Chapel Walk.”

The authority has submitted a £15m bid to the Future High Streets Fund.

It includes creating a multi-storey events building from a disused office, new access doors and stairs to upper floors to become flats, play areas, lighting, climate-ready planting and landscaping.

Gareth Heald, retail leasing account manager at Transport for London, said: “The council needs to allow high quality, high -ise developments in the city centre just as they are doing in Manchester, so that there is enough of a population to allow the shops to survive. Oh and stop charging stupidly high business rates, but that's nationwide problem.”

Patrick Abel, corporate finance partner at Hart Shaw Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, said: “It depends on the rateable value rather than the rent charged, although there should be some correlation.

“Below £12,000 is rates-free with tapering rates up to £15,000 rateable value. If they could make the entire street for boutiques / independent stores and craft units that would be a great addition to the city centre.”

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