Environment: The vision is that by 2039 Sheffield will be more economically stronger

Yes, it’s here at last! The long-awaited Draft Sheffield Plan has been OK’d by the City Council for publication and Public Consultation has begun.
Little Kelham, a sustainable development from CituLittle Kelham, a sustainable development from Citu
Little Kelham, a sustainable development from Citu

The Draft Sheffield Plan sets out a framework for Sheffield’s future development over a 15-year period. If and when adopted – the earliest date for formal adoption is the end of 2024 - it will guide decision making on future planning applications and infrastructure.

The vision is that by 2039 Sheffield will be economically stronger, fairer, more inclusive, and environmentally sustainable, responding to the climate emergency. So far – so positive.

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The Plan is a plan for growth, but there is no attempt to measure whether that growth is compatible with the 2030 net zero carbon emissions target set by the Council nearly four years ago.

The Plan aims to deliver 35,700 new homes by 2039 – at a steady rate of 2,100 homes per annum.

Most of the new housing allocations are in the Central Area on “brownfield” sites, some of which already have planning permission. Thanks to Sheffield’s industrial history, much of the land requires decontamination before it can safely be built on, adding to development costs.

The trend to city centre living is encouraged, reducing the need to travel by car. The old industrial area of Kelham Island is already proving a popular place to live and socialise (see photo). The only significant encroachment on the Green Belt is the old Norton Aerodrome site.

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The laudable principle of the 20 minute neighbourhood underlies the spatial strategy across the city.

Higher density development will be expected close to existing District Centres. Any development of more than 10 dwellings will require at least 10% affordable housing, rising to 30% in the more affluent sectors of the city.

Priority locations for economic growth are within the Central Sub-Area and the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District.

The amount of land shown for manufacturing and warehousing, offices and retail has been calculated in relation to the expected increase in population. The Plan shows little in-depth appreciation of Sheffield’s regional context.

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Reference is frequently made in the Draft Plan to the City Council’s declaration of a climate and nature emergency and to the associated target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Yet the policies set out are not robust enough to meet that target. Other cities, such as Bristol and Exeter, are setting much higher building standards than the minimum set nationally.

New building inevitably has its own embodied carbon footprint – the preference for adapting existing buildings to appropriate uses is touched on. The handling of the John Lewis building will be a test case in this regard. Will the policies requiring climate mitigation apply to alterations and extensions to existing properties, and if not, why not?

The promotion of active travel is a welcome emphasis, provision for charging points for electric bikes should help to increase the number of cycle journeys in this hilly city. Now transport still accounts for a third of Sheffield’s carbon emissions.

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The Plan attempts to concentrate new development close to acknowledged key travel corridors, encouraging the use of public transport.

There is a renewed emphasis on the role of railways and the tram system and an expectation that the switch from diesel to electric buses will be complete within the Plan period. It looks, though, as if commuters in and out of as well as across the city will still be over-reliant on car travel.

We know that bus use continues in a spiral of decline, in which the bus operators appear to be complicit. Without changes to the law, allowing and encouraging public ownership, even the Mayor’s anticipated franchising powers may not be enough to convince car owners to make the switch to public transport.

Much is made of Sheffield as the Outdoor City. There is a recognition that green spaces contribute greatly to health and wellbeing. Even “pocket parks” are valuable, if maintained. Measures to improve tree cover and biodiversity are welcome but could be stronger.

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You have until Monday 20 February to have a look at the Plan and send in your comments. Copies are available for consultation at libraries as well as on line.

It will help to attend the January meeting of your Local Area Committee, when planning officers will be available - usually in advance of the meeting as well as at it - to explain the Plan and answer your questions.

(Public Pack) Local Plan Part 1 and Part 2 Supporting Documents Supplements can be accessed on the Council website….

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Could and should the Plan be more ambitious, especially in relation to the climate emergency? South Yorkshire Climate Alliance is working on a detailed response to that question.

To learn more, contribute your thoughts to our response and consider your own, go to the South Yorkshire Climate Alliance website and register on Eventbrite to attend a Zoom meeting on Tuesday 24th January 2023 at 18.45 for 19.00 prompt start.