'Levelling Up' funding: Sheffield set for share of £1.5bn Brownfield Fund for regeneration

Sheffield and Wolverhampton are first in line for a new £1.5 billion Brownfield Fund for regeneration, under the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda.

By Robert Cumber
Sunday, 30th January 2022, 8:17 am

They are the first of 20 places chosen to benefit from what the Government calls a ‘radical new regeneration programme’, designed to bring disused brownfield sites back into use and boost disadvantaged communities which have suffered from years of underinvestment.

In Sheffield, Neepsend and the Devonshire Quarter on the edge of the city centre could be among the first neighbourhoods where the money will be invested to help ‘unlock new regeneration opportunities’ on previously developed land.

Where will new Levelling Up Fund money be spent in Sheffield?

A new £1.5bn Brownfield Fund for regeneration - announced as part of the Government's Levelling Up agenda - could help to develop sites in the Devonshire Quarter of Sheffield, where there are already plans to convert the old Eye Witness and Ceylon works into housing (pic: Capital&Centric)

In Neepsend, it could potentially help with planned redevelopment of sites including the old Ski Village, among other regeneration opportunities.

And in the Devonshire Quarter, it could speed up regeneration work which is already underway with the transformation of the former Eyewitness cutlery works into homes.

But the announcement has been criticised after it emerged the money had actually been announced by the Chancellor at the last Budget, with Labour accusing the Government of handing out ‘rehashed pots of money and policies’.

And the timing has led to claims it is being used as a distraction from the growing pressure Boris Johnson is facing to resign amid the row over the alleged illegal lockdown parties at Dowing Street.

The Government says the money will ‘build on’ the £37m from the Levelling Up Fund which was announced in Rishi Sunak’s Autumn Budget for Castlegate in the city centre and Attercliffe, where the Olympic Legacy Park continues to take shape.

“Homes England will build on this platform of Government investment by working with the City Council and South Yorkshire Combined Authority to intensify current regeneration activity and unlock new regeneration opportunities, such as those in Neepsend and the Devonshire Quarter on the edge of the city centre," a Government press release states.

How much will Sheffield receive from the £1.5bn Brownfield Fund for regeneration?

It remains unclear exactly how much of the £1.5bn Brownfield Fund – which is part of the £1.8bn the Chancellor announced at the last Budget to bring 1,500 hectares of brownfield land into use, and will be available from April 2022 – Sheffield will receive.

The plans will be set out in more detail in the Levelling Up White Paper which is due to be published next week, with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities only saying at this stage that Sheffield, Wolverhampton and the other 18 areas will be ‘prioritised within the new £1.5bn Brownfield Fund’.

The press release states that the 20 areas will ‘benefit from developments combining housing, leisure, and business in sustainable, walkable, beautiful new neighbourhoods’, with the work to be spearheaded by the Government’s housing agency Homes England.

The Brownfield Fund will provide loans to small and medium-sized builders and developers to deliver 42,000 homes, with the vast majority going outside London and the South East, in an attempt to correct historic imbalances in the economy and ‘spread prosperity and opportunity more equally’ across the country.

What has Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said about the funding for Sheffield?

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “We are on a mission to regenerate the nation, transforming derelict areas in our towns and cities into thriving places people are proud to live and work in.

“We are refocusing Homes England and empowering local leaders to support levelling up, delivering Kings Cross style transformational regeneration projects across the country – starting in Wolverhampton and Sheffield.

“This huge investment in infrastructure and regeneration will spread opportunity more evenly and help to reverse the geographical inequalities which still exist in the UK.”

He added: “Sheffield has a proud industrial history but is also a place with real ambition for the future. Our mission to regenerate the city will unleash its true potential with every penny from our record investment in infrastructure and regeneration spent wisely so that Sheffield can be a leading international city and a place where more people will be proud to call home.

“This is part of our national drive to level up will spread opportunity more evenly and reverse the geographical inequalities which still exist in the UK.”

To ‘kickstart’ regeneration in Sheffield, the Government said the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) would get £13m to ‘fund the projects most needed to support local levelling up ambitions’.

What are critics saying about the latest Levelling Up announcement for Sheffield?

That is part of £120m shared between seven mayoral combined authorities – money which is again part of the £1.8bn pledged by Mr Sunak last year to revive brownfield sites, and which the Government said would help to build 7,800 homes across those regions.

South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis said: “I warmly welcome this support for regeneration in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. It’s a much needed recognition of the potential of our region.

“Giving Homes England a wider focus on regeneration is also a very positive move, as is their commitment to support local and regional leadership. We’ve always argued for a more joined up approach, and lasting progress can only be driven from our communities. The key challenge will be ensuring that this comes with the long-term, transformative investment we need, and that it connects not just housing and buildings but skills, public services and environment.

“We’re looking forward to working with the Government to realise the ambition we all share to create a better future for Sheffield and South Yorkshire.”

But Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary, said: “The limit of this Government’s ambition for Britain can’t surely be this? Rehashed pots of money and policies for just 20 places. High streets will only thrive when people have money in their pockets to spend.

“We need good jobs, decent wages, genuinely affordable housing and action to deal with the unfolding cost of living crisis so people can spend in their local economy and young people no longer have to get out to get on. Instead, they’ve handed a few local areas a fiver and nicked a tenner.”