Breaking: John Lewis to pay £5m to Sheffield Council after closing city store - and condition of building is revealed

Retailer John Lewis is to pay £5m to Sheffield Council after closing its city store for good – and the money will be used to redevelop the crucial site.

Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 8:58 am
Workcrews abseiled off of the roof of the store in Barkers Pool to remove the last letters of the John Lewis sign from Sheffield's skyline.

Months of legal negotiations have taken place after the historic store shut forever, despite the council spending £3.4m buying John Lewis out of the lease, with the loss of 299 jobs earlier this year.

The closure has dominated discussions about the future of Sheffield city centre since, with shoppers campaigning against the closure and some even boycotting the brand. Yesterday city leaders took part in a Sheffield Telegraph round table on the issue at Sheffield City Hall.

Today a new report to Sheffield Council finally reveals how much the retailer has agreed to pay to surrender their current lease and obligations, which was due to continue until 2040. £5m is the sum that has been settled upon.

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The report, which also updates councillors on the progress of the Heart of the City II development, says: “On completion, The Council will have received a financial settlement on a key site in the centre of Sheffield in excess of what it paid John Lewis to buy them out of their old lease.”

Coun Mazher Iqbal, executive member for city futures, development, culture and regeneration at Sheffield Council, added: “It’s great news that an agreement has now been reached with John Lewis with no cost impact to the city. We now have full ownership of the Barker’s Pool building and site, and importantly, its future is now in the hands of Sheffield.

“It is an anchor site within the Heart of the City masterplan, with so much potential and the Council is one hundred percent committed to creating something special that the city can be proud of.”

A consultation on the future use of the building – which has also sparked months of debate – will begin in the new year.

In a separate report to council leaders, the condition of the building is also considered.

Arup’s report, based on limited site access and record information, says the structure of the main store is ‘difficult to assess’.

But it adds: “However exposed areas witnessed are in a reasonable condition, and we would expect the structure to be reusable as part of an extensive refurbishment of the building. Further intrusive investigations would be recommended if this option is to be pursued.”

It says there is extensive asbestos through the building which would need removing, building services and sprinkler systems are at the ‘end of their serviceable lives’ and the car park is likely to need demolition.

The report adds: “The car park is not in good condition and would require significant repair and ongoing maintenance over a 25year period. "In conjunction with reducing demand and John Lewis vacating we would recommend that serious consideration is given to demolition of the car park in any redevelopment option.”

The report, which will be presented to the council’s Co-operative Executive committee on December 15, says – 40 per cent of the Heart of the City II development is complete and interest from commercial and leisure occupiers is gaining significant momentum.