EXCLUSIVE: Sheffield bids to bring Channel 4 headquarters to the city
An ambitious bid is being launched to bring the headquarters of Channel 4 to Sheffield in a move designed to cement the city's reputation as a major creative hub in the UK.
The current government has said it will move the publicly-owned corporation out of its London headquarters to another base elsewhere in the UK to help drive creative jobs throughout the regions.
Sheffield has thrown its hat into the ring and will prepare a formal bid to try and land the broadcaster. The Steel City faces stiff competition as other major cities including Manchester, Coventry, Birmingham and Cardiff are also believed to be preparing bids.
It is being spearheaded by Creative Sheffield, the council's economic development function, and project leaders said they will highlight the city's central location, major transport links and reputation as a place with a wealth of creative talent as major selling points.
Edward Highfield, director of Creative Sheffield, said: "We want to say 'Sheffield is up for this' and we are putting forward a strong, compelling bid.
"Sheffield is a hugely creative place, full of inspiring people and projects. Coupled with our central location and transport links, we believe this is the place to be."
Professor Vanessa Toulmin, director of city and cultural engagement at the University of Sheffield, is also backing the bid and said: "If Sheffield could be a TV channel it would be Channel 4.
"It is a unique and creative place which often does something interesting and out of the ordinary, much like Channel 4 does.
"We have a fantastic creative industry in this city and this is a huge opportunity to expand upon this."
Project leaders have earmarked vacant land in Sheaf Square close to the railway station as a potential base for the new headquarters. Mr Highfield said initial talks with site owners, the Homes and Communities Agency, have been "positive."
He added: "How amazing this would be to come out of the station and see a major TV station's headquarters as part of the city skyline.
"With HS2 planned for the city in future years and Sheffield's central location, we think our connectivity will be a big selling point."
The bid will also be shaped around Sheffield's creative heritage and draw attention to programmes such as This Is England - a show filmed in the city by Sheffield-based production company Warp Films for Channel 4.
A report led by by Prof Toulmin to showcase the city's growing creative digital sector will also be included.
Project leaders will detail the bid in a four-page prospectus that will be given out at the upcoming Channel 4-supported Sheffield Doc/Fest between June 9 and 14.
Mr Highfield said: "Channel 4 is very similar to Sheffield in that it is quirky and independent. We need to show we are a good fit.
"We need to convince the Channel 4 board, the independent producer sector and the Government. But we have a lot to offer and we want the people of Sheffield to get behind it."
He added the bids have to be submitted to the Government by July 5 and project leaders will be pulling together the "finer details" such as potential economic impact and estimated project costs over the next month.
Mr Highfield added that timescales are "a little vague" at the moment but it is believed the initial bids will be seen as a "statement of intent" and there could be opportunity for more detailed proposals further down the line.
The channel is a public corporation of the department for culture, media and sport and culture secretary Karen Bradley said in March that a consultation would be launched asking whether the broadcaster should relocate some or all of its 800 staff from its £100 million London base to another part of the country.
The Conservative Party has now included the proposal in its manifesto and pledged that the channel will be "relocated out of London" if the party wins the general election.
Channel 4 bosses have reportedly expressed concern in the past about relocation plans and argued it would be costly to move out of the capital. They said the best way to serve the regions would come from commissioning more programmes out of London.
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “We welcome the Conservatives’ manifesto commitment that Channel 4 will remain publicly owned.
"Channel 4 already delivers a significant impact in the UK’s nations and regions and we want to continue to work with Government as part of its consultation to explore meaningful ways to grow this further and support jobs, investment and growth in the creative economy across the whole of the UK."