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COMMUNITY FOCUS: Vibrant Walkley going through positive changes thanks to its togetherness

South Road, Walkley.
South Road, Walkley.
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When gunshots were fired at the home of Sheffield pensioner, it sent shockwaves across the city.

A machine gun was fired at an 84-year-old woman's in an horrific case of mistaken identity.

Walkley Library.

Walkley Library.

The automatic firearm, which residents said sounded like a machine gun, was fired at a house on Bransby Street, Walkley in April.

The city was rocked by the news but at the epicentre of the incident, people living in the quirky suburb did what they do best - pulled together and supported each other.

It was exactly the same when Wakley Library on the corner of South Road was threatened with closure in 2014.

Those living in the area didn't just sit back and watch it go to waste when told by Sheffield Council that it could no longer afford to run some of the city's libraries.

Chris Beech.

Chris Beech.

Dozens of helpers answered the rallying call and three years on the Grade II listed facility now has a new lease of life.

The community spirit and feeling of togetherness is something which is almost tangible in the suburb.

In fact, the library has proved so popular that the dedicated volunteers have extended its opening hours and are also looking at adding a café.

Chris Reece, chairman of Walkley Carnegie Library, said: "We are trying to push Walkley as a whole rather than anything individual. The library is a great success story and we are very pleased with that but to keep Walkley on track we need to link the main streets, the Walkley Festival, which starts later this month and the Forum and various other events.

Walkley.

Walkley.

"To give an example, on one weekday during half-term we had yoga for children in the afternoon and in the morning we had the Sheffield branch of the Assistance Dogs charity in and I believe we had just over 250 in so that proves we're doing very well.

"We have also increased our opening hours to open an hour later on a Monday evening and we have increased our book stock and the number of activities we do."

Luke Fanthome moved to Walkley in 2012 and was quick to settle in, becoming chairman of Walkley Forum, a group which aims to champion the area, for two years in 2015.

He said: "There are some very committed groups of people in Walkley who have worked together for years - there are people who have been promoting Walkley for 20 to 30 years.

"It's a community, Walkley. I have been here since 2012 and I really enjoy it - it's lovely. I've really enjoyed the recent resurgence in good businesses and people investing their time in the area.

"It means you have got a little community with places to shop, cafés to hang out in and all of these are contributing to making Walkley a nice and pleasant place to be."

Luke, 30, praised the work of the volunteers who saved the library and encouraged more people to use shops in and around South Road - the main road through Walkley.

As well as offering great views of Sheffield city centre, the streets are also full of independent shops and cafes.

Luke added: "I think it's fair to say Walkley is vibrant at certain times of day and I think it's going through a very positive change."

Speaking to the traders, the main concern for most of them was the fight with the big supermarket chains.

But it was more a case of if you can't beat them, join them for butcher Chris Beech.

Mr Beech took over the neighbouring unit to his store Beeches Butchers - and rather than just offering meat, shoppers can now also pick up groceries, fruit and vegetables as well as frozen food in Beeches of Walkley.

Mr Beech said: "I have always had the butchers and the shop side of things was originally three units and a Costcutter but it closed when Asda opened further up the road six years ago."

It's not all plain sailing for trade in Walkley though.

Mr Beech and fellow business owner Jason Jesson of nearby Laundry Point, on Barber Road called for parking restrictions in the area to be relaxed.

Mr Beech said: "It's a nice area around here and we are attracting some nice shops but since Brexit it has been hard and you have got Aldi and Lidl competing with the bigger supermarkets and that obviously affects us too.

"But the biggest issue around here is the parking. South Road is a clearway between 8am and 9.30am and 4.30pm and 6.30pm, which are busy times for us as people call in on their way to and from work."

Mr Beech called for the restrictions to be relaxed in an attempt to boost trade.

He added: "The council did try and get a couple of extra spaces in but the focus seems to be on the area around the Asda.

"In a morning I will get customers come in and as soon as they walk in the shop they see the parking wardens and run back out to their car and don't come back."

Mr Jesson, who has run Laundry Point for the eight years, said the area had attracted a number of independent traders over recent years.

He said: "The area is changing - it's not just students anymore. We have got a complete mix, there are long-term residential and short-term residential and people who have lived here for 50 years.

"But the one problem is still parking. It puts people off when they know they can't get parked."

Paul Fell, strategic transport and infrastructure business manager, said: "We have previously worked with local businesses to explore the available options for parking in that area and have made amendments to the parking arrangements in accordance with their wishes.

"We also have to bear in mind that this is also a very busy bus route, so we have to carefully consider any impacts on public transport.

"We are always pleased to hear the views of local businesses on what they would like to see and will work with them to improve the area where we can."