The Peace Gardens, Tudor Square and the Advanced Manufacturing Retail Park are just a few of the projects which have been made possible in Sheffield thanks to millions of pounds of European Union handouts.
The South Yorkshire region has received more than £1 billion of EU money since the early 1990s, says Sheffield Council’s business boss Coun Leigh Bramall.
The revelation comes as the debate around Britain’s membership of the EU hots up with a referendum on whether the UK should remain a member due to take place before the end of 2017
Coun Bramall said: “A lot of regeneration projects we have undertaken have included a significant amount of EU funding.
“Grey To Green – the redevelopment around West Bar – has had EU funding. The third part of the office block around the Peace Gardens has had EU funding. There’s a whole range of projects for employment and education that have had an impact on the lower end and helped get people on the jobs ladder.
“Even a lot of road transport schemes, such as the new bus lane being installed on Penistone Road, have had EU funding. There are at least two current projects at the moment that got EU funding. It has been a sizeable contributor to the Grey to Green project and Castle Gate regeneration. The amount Sheffield has received is probably in the hundreds of millions of pounds.
“The EU Regional Objective One fund that we had has given £1 billion to South Yorkshire. I would expect that a lot of that money came to Sheffield.
“That was used to help rebalance the economy after the collapse of the coal and steel industries. It has been used to roll out broadband. EU funding was crucial to the The Fox Valley scheme in Stocksbridge.”
Other projects which used EU money included the redevelopment of the area outside Sheffield Station, the Peace Gardens, Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Retail Park and several community projects including Foxhill Forum.
Sheffield Chamber of Commerce boss Richard Wright said: “We need to do a proper cost-benefit analysis of being in the EU before any decision is taken. One of the biggest benefits is the free trade agreement in Europe. But we need to weigh that against the cost of membership, and other factors like red tape.
“Immigration is not a significant issue in the grand scheme. I am worried the decision will be an emotional one rather than a proper thought-out debate.”
But EU detractors say the UK would be better off financially outside the EU, indirectly benefiting Sheffield.
Stocksbridge and Upper Don UKIP Coun Keith Davis said: “It’s just recycled money. We give away £56 million a day to the EU and £12 billion in foreign aid, on top of that £56 million.
“In Stocksbridge there’s a big sign on the new development that says ‘funded by the EU’ and I would rip it down if I wouldn’t get done for it. It beggars belief.
“The money is simply recycled from the money we invested in Europe.”
He claimed immigration is causing problems in Sheffield due to EU membership.
Coun Davis said: “I don’t like talking about immigration but we do have particular areas of Sheffield costing us quite a lot of money.
“In Page Hall hundreds of thousands of pounds is being spent cleaning up the mess in the area.
“What Sheffield needs to do is educate them on what we have always done in the city socially, domestically and legally. Immigration is not the problem. The problem is the lack of control over immigration. If you control it, you can control who comes in. If people come here to work they should be welcomed with open arms. But if they want to come for welfare, they can go somewhere else.
“If we were not in the EU, our education would be better. I think two years ago, there were 240 Roma Slovak children in secondary education in Sheffield. There’s now about 2,000. That answers the question on education.
“I think Sheffield would benefit along with the rest of the country if we left Europe. People who say it would affect our trading relationships, that’s a load of rubbish. We are Europe’s biggest exporter. We are governed by the bureaucrats in Brussels that we have no control over. I’m against the European Convention on Human Rights – we have the Magna Carta.”
Coun Bramall added: “I think EU sceptics would say the EU is giving back some of the money we gave to the EU anyway.
“There may be some truth to that, but there’s no certainty whatsoever that Sheffield would have seen that money if it had not come to the city through EU programmes.”