A bid to officially brand Sheffield as the UK’s first Outdoor City to boost tourism and attract people to live here is to be launched next week.
Plans in the draft The Outdoor City strategy include creating 21 ‘recreation zones’, improving outdoors infrastucture and events and a new strategy for cycling.
It will be revealed at the major European Outdoor Summit conference in Sheffield – where 300 delegates from around the world will attend – as well as be subject to public consultation.
The aim is to make Sheffield nationally synonymous with the outdoors and build on its reputation for climbing, cycling, running and walking.
In the long term, it is hoped the initiative will help to attract or retain more people to live in the city and work in its growing advanced manufacturing industries, as well as encouraging more businesses, improve the life balance or health of current residents and attract more tourists.
“There aren’t many cities in the UK that have got very definable identities,” said Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for development.
“Edinburgh has, Liverpool because of its dock history, but not so much in places like Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham.
“We have an opportunity to build on a real identity that is strong, definable and people can relate to – one that sets us apart from the rest.
“This is a chance for us to have an identity that other places can’t replicate because they haven’t got the natural assets we have.”
Those assets – urban Sheffield’s proximity to the Peak District and countryside, its seven hills, 800 parks and green spaces, reputation for climbing and appearance in the Tour de France – are well known to residents.
But the strategy will aim, for the first time, to bring them together, build on local ‘enthusiasm’ and look at their economic potential.
Coun Bramall added: “What we’ve never done before is promote that. As a successful city in the 21st century, we’ve got to be an attracter of people and that there is an economic perspective for the city – this can help us do that.
“There are a lot of people who have been to the universities who know this about Sheffield but there is still a huge number of people, sometimes in places like London, who think of Sheffield and only think Full Monty. That is a challenge for us to change.”
He added: “It’s not going to be some big bang, where everything happens at once, this is a whole city approach. I’m confident over four to five years we will have some exciting developments but there will be smaller ones such as building on infrastructure.
“It’s about both the urban and the outdoors side. Things like parkour which we have in Sheffield, you can’t do that in the Scottish Highlands.”
The idea of the Outdoor City has been worked up over time, and follows a Sheffield Hallam University report last year which showed outdoor recreation in the city generated £53 million in economic output annually.
Council chiefs have also been working with local and national organisations such as the National Trust and Sport England, particularly focusing on the idea of recreation zones around places such as Damflask reservoir in Bradfield.
“Everybody can get involved with this,” said Diane Buckley, of Creative Sheffield.
“We want to have feedback and ideas from the public and business people – it’s really important this is a city strategy and not a council one.”
As part of the conference, which begins on Tuesday, delegates will experience a range of outdoor pursuits.
At the same time Sheffield’s second international economic commission will be held, with an outdoor city theme.
The commissions, which began this year, aim to explore Sheffield’s biggest challenges and opportunities by bringing in experts from around the world to give their views on how to drive the city forward.
The first on advanced manufacturing with Bruce Katz, a former adviser to President Obama, was hailed a success.
Maxine Gregory, one of the commission panellists who carried out outdoors research for Hallam’s report, said: “Building on our research, the next step is to continue our enhance our reputation for outdoor activities and shout it from the rooftops.”
A new outdoor city website is also to launch next week.