"Awful how Sheffield has declined” – Readers share their thoughts on the future of the city centre

Following this week’s devastating news that the iconic John Lewis department store would not be reopening in Sheffield, as a result putting at risk the livelihoods of 299 people. We asked our readers, ‘What you think this means for Sheffield and the future of our city centre?’And this is what they had to say.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 3:44 pm

“Such sad news for Sheffield and all staff at Cole Brothers. A lot of longstanding staff. Always used to go on Wednesdays for late night shopping, lovely man in fashion department for yrs. Went when I was 12, now 49, will be sadly missed. Feel like Sheffield Council have let us down as Leeds council have moved with times... little too late for us… a very sad day for Sheffield gutted” said Claire Ronksley.

Pam Cooper was scathing about the council, saying; “If anybody has ever watched the televised council meetings on a Weds afternoon they will understand why the city is such a mess... pedantic, pathetic, dogmatic with any positive vision at all.”

"The future could still be fine if we had a decent council. I'm certainly not anti-Labour, but I am anti-Sheffield Labour. There is little competition at elections and that has bred comfort, familiarity, and a laziness amongst the city's elected and unelected officials. It's not their fault. It's human nature. Other northern cities may be mostly Labour, but local parties have had to fight for votes with other parties and that has made people work for our votes. No wonder Sheffield feels left behind compared to other similar cities,” so says Nik Seth

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Sheffield's department store decline

Elaine Lockwood expressed her worries about how this will affect the city; “What will be left in Sheffield to entice visitors from outside the area? Or even for locals to go into town. Awful how Sheffield has declined in the last decade...it's just not expanded like Manchester or Leeds. Makes you feel (sad emoji)."

Tim Shaw on the other hand feels that John Lewis is a by product of council policy; “A desperate and sad situation . The online mega boom has no boundaries. Working from home and the enforced way of working will affect footfall after the end of the lockdown. City Centres need to look back in history and see what the city looked like. Business Rates, car parking availability and charges and ease of access need to be examined with urgency. Models of congestion charges will accelerate the onset of a wasteland if we are not careful.”

And, Lisa Carroll says; “At least we still have Atkinsons of Sheffield. I will never go to Sheffield again if this store goes. The city has lost all its other greats I pray to god The Atkinson family can keep it going xx” — and so do we Lisa.

David Elshaw feels that the city’s (supposed) stagnation is a result of not moving with the times; “It is such a shame really. Many people aren't doing their shopping in city centres anymore. Maybe in time people will return to our city centres but there will be nothing left. I wonder if city centres should be leisure and entertaining hubs. Better public transport and free parking. There should be a certain amount of shops but these old fashioned shops such as M & S, John Lewis etc need to move into the 21st century.”

“I'm shocked, love that store. There will be nothing left of the city centre. Very sad”, says Karen Roach.

Rachel Steele says the impact on the city is the result of a huge reduction in funding policy for more than a decade; “I wonder how many of those blaming the council know that local government funding has been cut by £16bn since 2010? Councils cannot legally go bankrupt, so they have to make up the shortfall in other ways. That means cuts to frontline services and increases to Council Tax, business rates and parking charges. Also, whether you like it or not, internet shopping is here to stay, and businesses that fail to adapt will ultimately die (especially if they also charge £20 for kettle when you can get one from Argos for £5).”

Bettie Kirkssen thinks that a big change in thinking needs to happen to ensure a better future; “I'm dreaming but I'd love if they rescued what's left of town by offering cheaper rents and turning Fargate into the cafe quarter. It's perfect for cafes and restaurants to have covered outdoor seating with heaters to extend the season (as Covid isn't going away soon). Offer cheaper parking and public transport, and turn Sheffield into the thriving university city it should be.”

Helen Beasley would prefer that the council takes steps to; “Reclaim them for city centre living with large green areas, theatres etc ( when we can) to ease pressure on our green belt areas.” And, Karen Robinson says; “What city centre. Our council has never invested in it - unlike Leeds, Manchester etc. Disgraceful.”

Last of all (and by no means least), Jez Grant said; “Sheffield council: No support, No forward thinking, No regeneration. Just sit there living on the past, Waller around in self pity letting the city slowly disappear into oblivion blame, blame, blame need to look in the mirror! How about grabbing the initiative, shaking this great city out of the past and strive to build a great city for the future. Let’s compete with the Manchester’s, Leeds and Liverpool’s of the World. Our greatest assets are the Sheffielders the council are knocking the living daylights out of us!”

There were many more comments made, more than we could list here… however, it’s clear that many of the people who commented lay the blame squarely at the feet of the council, not just in this instance but as a steady means of filtering the retail experience out of the city with its policy choices and actions.