“Castlegate is a hidden gem in the city centre with huge potential" - How £20m bid could transform historic Sheffield site

Sheffield Council has submitted a bid to transform the city’s historic centre and put a spotlight on culture, heritage and art.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 4:29 pm

If successful, £20 million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund will be spent on three projects that aim to boost under-used areas of the city centre, showcase the city’s cultural and arts scene and celebrate its historic heritage.

Specifically, the money would be used to redevelop the historic Castlegate area – where Sheffield Castle once stood - and support two new art and music destinations that are Park Hill Art Space and Harmony Works.

The council said Sheffield receives on average £16.4 million less in regular arts funding than its peer cities every year.

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Artists' impression of the Artspace.
Artists' impression of the Artspace.

Councillor Terry Fox, leader of the council, said: “Castlegate is a hidden gem in the city centre with huge potential which we hope to unlock through the Levelling Up Fund. The area is already home to a lot of great businesses and it’s important to us that we put the groundwork in place to encourage further investment to the area, as well as linking the site up with the rest of the city centre through our award-winning Grey to Green schemes and active travel routes.

“Park Hill Art Space and Harmony Works will introduce much-needed vibrancy into the area and make Castlegate a destination in the city, not just somewhere people pass through. Sheffield has a rich, proud history and through this funding we hope to do the site justice and celebrate all it has to offer.”

The plan for Castlegate would be to revive it as a focal point by de-culverting the River Sheaf and introducing new greenery and dedicated public spaces to make it more attractive.

Land around the site would be prepared for future uses for education, employment and encouraging healthy lifestyles.

Councillor Douglas Johnson.

The council said any development would be done sensitively and in accordance with its historic past, with the preservation of archaeology a priority.

Councillor Douglas Johnson, City ward representative and executive member for climate change, environment and transport, said: “It’s an area that needs a lot going into it because it’s not had a lot of investment for many, many years. It wants some transformative funding there.

“There is still a big question about what is going to be the future of Castlegate. This is just one bid but in that bid there is an awful lot of flexability about what might actually come out.

“Twenty million pounds is a decent chunk of money, it’s very significant and you can do a lot with that but having said that, big building projects take up a lot of money.

Coun Terry Fox.

“The idea is that if they are successful, it will be a trigger to bring in more money in the future. At the moment, no one wants to invest in the area because it hasn’t really started yet. The idea of this is to get something off the ground so there is more for other people to build on.

“There has got to be a really important feature about the site of the castle, it is the castle in Sheffield, the original centre of the city. It is something of course that has had so many uses over the years, it has so much story behind it and so much of a story that isn’t told very much – there are an awful lot of features that can be done there.

“There is also some really important archaeology. A lot of the site hasn’t been excavated yet and so we still don’t have a completely clear idea of where the castle is and how it functioned, we know a lot more than we did but we also now know a lot more about what needs to be done so there has got to be scope for significant further archaeological excavation there. That’s a really important thing because that is a one off opportunity, you can’t build on it then excavate afterwards, if you build on it then it’s gone for good.”

Not far from Castlegate, some of the funding would also be used to create Park Hill Art Space on the Park Hill estate. It aims to be one of the largest contemporary art galleries in the north and feature creative workspace and learning facilities as well as a six-acre sculpture park connecting it to Castlegate.

Castlegate

The plans for this were developed through consultation with the local community and a pilot programme in 2015. Its team has so far secured £1.25 million investment to date and planning permission.

Louise Hutchinson, artistic director and chief executive of S1 Artspace, said if the extra funding can be secured, it is estimated for completion by 2024-25. She said it will create jobs, education and training opportunities for young people and could benefit the local economy by £39 million by 2034.

She said: “Park Hill Art Space presents a unique opportunity to establish a major new destination for arts, culture and heritage for Sheffield at one of the city’s most iconic buildings.”

The other project in the plan is Harmony Works, a collaboration between Sheffield Music Academy and Sheffield Music Hub. This would move to a new site nearby at Canada House, in the city centre – giving the organisation a fit-for-purpose and accessible home.

Emily Pieters, director of Harmony Works, said: “There has never been a more important time to invest in our children and the skills they develop from studying music. Through sensitive restoration of the historic Canada House, we will have a city centre home to support the musical lives of children and young people from every corner of our city. Harmony Works will be transformational, positioning Sheffield even more firmly as a city of music.”

Plans also include a multi-purpose space to allow students and other users to perform to the public.

CGI image showing how the castle might have looked.

The outcome of the bid is expected in Autumn.

Remains of the castle today.