Another seven months of scaffolding at Chapel Walk – as council seeks legal advice
The scaffolding at Chapel Walk in the middle of Sheffield is set to stay up for another seven months – prompting the city council to take legal advice.
Council bosses and traders had been assured the scaffolding would be removed by June but it now looks as though it will be there for a third Christmas shopping period.
The scaffolding was originally erected in September 2017 and traders say they have seen a drop in business while shoppers complain Chapel Walk is dark, difficult to navigate and feels unsafe.
Contractor Headoffice3 says it “wants rid of the scaffolding” as much as anyone but the council is holding urgent meetings this week to discuss the delay.
Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment at Sheffield Council, said: “We have told the developer on several occasions that delays are unacceptable and they have assured us that the deadline will be met.
“To hear of more delays is simply unacceptable, for the council, the traders and the people who shop in the city centre.
“I am seeking legal advice to understand what options the council has to intervene based on the earlier assurances that have been made to us.”
Headoffice3 is the principal contractor appointed on the £4.6 million project to convert offices at Fargate Court – above Paperchase and jeweller H.Samuel – into a block of nearly 50 student flats.
Director Jonny Phillips said: “We understand that there has been a long running battle with the scaffold before we got involved and we sympathise with all the shop owners, but we’ve not been involved in that.
“However, since we were given a Letter of Intent recently we’ve made an initial early start in the last few weeks to try and mitigate any further delays.
“When we get a signed contract from the developer we will ensure that we complete the external works and drop the scaffold at the earliest possible opportunity as we want rid of this scaffold as much as anyone. It provides shelter for potential anti-social behaviour which is obstructive to our project.
“We’re excited about this project and the major difference it will make in the centre of Sheffield.
“We’re confident that it will make a huge improvement to the area and once this difficult disruptive period is over the shop owners will benefit from a lot of new tenants that will be potential customers.”
Traders say they can’t wait another few months though as business has already been badly affected.
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One of the traders, Carl Dunne, has started a petition to the council. It says: “We petition the council to prevent the extension of the licence for the scaffolding currently in place at the top of Chapel Walk.
“This was erected in September 2017 and no works as yet have been done. The developer has done no work that required the scaffolding at this point so why should the businesses and community continue to suffer because of their poor management?
“This didn’t need to go up when it did as no work has been done and knowing when their licence would expire they should have worked to get said works completed.
“To allow an extension would be a travesty and continue to affect local high street trade which is being seriously affected.
“Any extension would seriously impact the important Christmas trading period for a third consecutive Christmas and continue to cause serious issues with regards anti-social behavior and criminal activity.”
Green councillors Douglas Johnson and Martin Phipps have been supporting the traders.
Coun Johnson said: “They are trying to run their businesses in appalling conditions with a huge drop in footfall.
“Chapel Walk used to be famous for how packed it was. Now it is difficult to walk down it, not because of shoppers but the number of scaffolding poles.
“From Fargate, many people won’t even realise there is an arcade of shops there, and it is hardly inviting to enter the gloom.
“The problem is there is a big developer with a student flats project and they have no interest in taking the scaffolding down until they have completely finished.
“This is the third year it has been up and there is still no end in sight of the work. This would be the third Christmas with the scaffolding devastating a key trading period.
“Unfortunately, the council has extended the permit for the scaffolding every time the developer has asked, despite the hardship this is causing to the traders.
“The developer has also declined all requests to compensate the traders for their losses.
“We have been helping the traders by liaising with the relevant council officers, sharing information and helping with business rates issues.”