Meadowhall expansion plans will ‘damage Sheffield city centre and risk jobs’, says council chief

Meadowhall’s plans for a £150m extension have been criticised by the council chief in charge of regnerating Sheffield city centre.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 9:29 am

Nalin Seneviratne, director of city centre development at Sheffield Council, has objected to the expansion, saying it will put Heart of the City 2 and the wider social and economic regeneration of the city centre at risk.

British Land wants to develop a new leisure hall adjacent to Meadowhall which could create 1,500 jobs.

It is one of a range of schemes including converting the M1 distribution site off Vulcan Road into a leisure park and an outdoor adventure area.

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Artists' impression of the proposed expansion at Meadowhall.

New shops selling outdoor equipment, sports and homeware are proposed and the existing Vue cinema would be expanded and modernised.

Mr Seneviratne did not originally object to the plans but says the pandemic and the loss of John Lewis and Debenhams has caused “seismic changes” and even assessments from as recently as last September are now outdated.

In his objection to council planners, he says: “Both John Lewis and Debenhams have now closed. The loss of these anchor stores changes the retail landscape of Sheffield significantly and the impact of the Meadowhall application must be considered against this current position.

“Meadowhall is the dominant retail destination in the region, but the city centre remains the main centre for catering and leisure.

Nalin Seneviratne, director of city centre development at Sheffield Council.

“Maintaining this and a diverse quality retail offer in the city centre is vital to ensuring sustainability and promoting high quality urban living.”

Mr Seneviratne is concerned at Meadowhall’s focus on leisure. “Heart of the City 2 has been designed to build on the city centre’s leisure and cultural strengths rather than seeking to compete directly with Meadowhall.

“The Meadowhall expansion risks deflecting this development and growth.

“The Meadowhall expansion opening in tandem with Heart of the City 2 will leave both centres fighting to attract a limited pool of tenants – to the detriment of both centres, but likely impacting on the city centre more.

“The city centre area currently has almost 10 times more jobs in the arts, entertainment and recreation than Meadowhall.

“Jobs created through the Meadowhall development will be offset by a loss of some of these city centre roles, with smaller independent operators suffering most.

“Meadowhall is not suitable for, nor is it intending to host an evening economy, but by attracting daytime leisure spend away from the city centre it will damage occupiers that rely on both day and evening trade to remain viable – potentially damaging the evening economy in the city centre.

“Shopper expenditure and employment opportunities are quantifiable impacts; the social costs of the loss of offer diversity and ultimately failing to create a sustainable city centre where people want to live, and work are of far more consequence and impossible to quantify.”

Rotherham Council and Fox Valley retail park at Stocksbridge have also objected, saying the Meadowhall development will damage town centres.

But Sheffield Chamber is supporting Meadowhall and says the “hugely important” asset must move with the times.