Sheffield campaigners claim victory over controversial Waitrose proposal

Campaigners fighting to preserve a famous Sheffield river have gained a small victory after Waitrose agreed to alter its controversial planning application.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 3:36 pm

Last April, the supermarket giant, in its partnership with John Lewis, had applied for planning permission from Sheffield City Council to erect a rooftop refrigeration plant and develop delivery facilities at its store on Ecclesall Road.

But campaigners at Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust and local residents massively objected to the proposal, saying the move would only result in negative impacts to the green infrastructure surrounding the Porter Brook and its habitat.

If the project were to be given the go-ahead, they argued, it would see the Porter, which is culverted for several hundred metres under the supermarket and its large car park, put at risk of being neglected.

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Waitrose Sheffield
Waitrose Sheffield

Moreover, they said, it would also contradict the 'Connecting Sheffield infrastructure scheme aimed at transforming travel connectivity alongside complementary environmental improvements.

Following strong objections from the public who flooded the council’s planning department with objections expressing their disgruntlement, the campaigners say they have secured an agreement from Waitrose and John Lewis.

The improvements, they said, include an access and viewing area that will be created adjoining the exposed Porter Brook at the bottom of Cemetery Road which should complement the council's planned Connecting Sheffield improvements.

Additionally, three new interpretive boards about the history of the Porter Brook, one at the Cemetery Road viewing area and two in the store's car park, will be erected.

The Porter Brook at Waitrose as it is now. Picture by Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust

Waitrose also agreed to include waymarkers in the surface of the car park showing the course of the 'hidden' Porter Brook below.

Not only that, but £3,000 will also be contributed to the planned restoration of the habitat of the Porter Brook by the trust and the Environment Agency.

Both parties have, in principle, also agreed to allow the emerging Porter Brook Trail to extend through part of the car park subject to a similar agreement from the owner of adjoining Liv Students Apartments on Harrow Street.

Alex Barlow, part of the trust’s team which negotiated the improvements, said: "We are satisfied that Waitrose have now bought into the trust’s vision for a more naturalised and accessible river which can also become a positive feature of their site.

View from Cemetery Road - showing the view from the 'bridge' on Cemetery Road towards the Thai restaurant (Baan Thai) and shows the new viewing area and railing, allowing views into the Porter Brook. Access to the space is flush with Cemetery Road.

"This would not have happened without the swift and powerful actions of our supporters who registered over 80 objections to the original proposal for which we are very grateful.

"We can now advise them to withdraw these objections and look forward to working with the store to achieve all that we have agreed."

In response, a Waitrose spokesperson said: "We have welcomed the opportunity to work with the Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust and are grateful for their support in ensuring the community can enjoy more of the River Porter and engage with its history."

The campaigners at the trust said they are also in talks with the manager of the local store about organising joint activities with their staff in the coming year to ensure continuity.

Three new interpretive boards about the history of the Porter Brook, one at the Cemetery Road viewing area and two in the store's car park will also be erected.