Comment - End the myth that flats and companies belong together

In recent years we’ve been sold the idea that living in an employment area is somehow cool.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 12:15 pm

Romanticising ‘work’ is great for property developers – but it can be bad for those on the ground.

Many Sheffield manufacturing firms make noise, dust and fumes. They start early and finish late. Some have delivery lorries and fork lifts with reversing alarms. And employees, in the natural course of their job, sometimes shout and occasionally drop big things.

This fantasy of co-existence stems from the redevelopment of disused factories in Kelham Island. But the key word there is ‘disused’. The city living boom has since spread to areas where businesses still thrive, like Neepsend. I’m told there are company owners there who are “tearing their hair out” over problems with residents, who want peace and quiet and somewhere to park.

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Toolmaker Michael Atter, aged 60, has been at the firm for 44 years and thought he would retire there.
Toolmaker Michael Atter, aged 60, has been at the firm for 44 years and thought he would retire there.

It’s like when townies move to the countryside and then complain about muck-spreading. But in the city, the newcomers have more clout. Once a new development has been granted permission, the argument from companies that ‘we were here first’ is irrelevant. And a long war of attrition can start that can lead to them giving up the fight.

The original 19th century residents in back-to-back houses in Kelham and Neepsend probably didn’t want to live next door to a factory. So what’s changed today?

The other issue creating friction is when landlords and owners of functioning firms are offered cash to move out.

In the case of Aircraft and Commercial Tools (Sheffield) Ltd on Bowling Green Street, Kelham, some 16 jobs will be lost when the company closes by December to make way for flats.

David Walsh, business editor.

Boss Richard Frolish said it would likely have gone bust anyway, for a host of reasons including noise complaints from new neighbours, bad parking, road restrictions and competition from China.

For him, it’s obvious: “The idea the idea that flats and businesses go together is ridiculous. You can’t be a good neighbour and run a business like ours.”

Before Neepsend gets any more gentrified, planning board councillors should spare a thought for existing firms - and potential residents - and bury the myth they go together.