It has taken over 15 years, and a change of location, but Sheffield’s long-awaited Ikea store is finally to become a reality.
The Swedish furniture giant is now just waiting on final approval of road layout changes around the site before construction can begin in earnest.
Ikea is preparing to appoint a construction firm to build the store – with initial work set to begin on site this summer.
The company has confirmed it is ‘finalising the process’ for choosing a building company and have promised the construction of the store will not be delayed despite agreement not yet being reached on the new road layout around the site.
The firm has said it is looking to start enabling works on the site this summer.
It comes after Ikea submitted revised plans for highway improvements around the former Tinsley Wire site near Meadowhall where it intends to build a new 37,000 sq ft superstore.
The company has withdrawn intended changes around the Shepcote Lane junction with Europa Link which was going to allow an access route into the new store.
A deadline for Sheffield Council to decide on whether to approve other highway changes has been extended from June as further talks continue with the Highways Agency.
Documents from the company made public earlier this year said it was aiming for a July 2017 opening date, but Ikea will not officially confirm when it expects the store to open until the highways issue is resolved.
Ikea has been looking for a suitable location for a Sheffield store for more than a decade, initially considering the old Yorkshire Electricity Board depot off the Parkway.
In 2001, the company submitted plans to build a store at the site but the application was withdrawn in 2004 following council bosses raising ‘major concerns’ about its potential impact on town centre shops and fears about how the Parkway would cope with the extra traffic.
Almost 10 years later, the company revisited its plans to build a Sheffield store – settling on the site of the former Betafence factory on Lock House Road near Meadowhall, with an application for planning permission for the £60million store submitted in May 2013.
The move was not without opposition. Campaigners from a Tinsley residents’ action group claimed the extra pollution that would be caused around the site would be a death sentence for residents already living in an area plagued by poor air quality.
This view appeared to be backed up by Dr Jeremy Wight, Sheffield’s then director of public health, who wrote a report stating increased air pollution problems due to the store would ‘undoubtedly cause more illness and very probably a small number of premature deaths’.
John Lewis objected to the plans on the grounds it would hit traders based in the city centre, while the owners of Meadowhall shopping centre raised concerns about the impact of extra traffic.
But councillors gave the green light to the store on the basis of the massive economic boost it is expected to provide.
The store, which is expected to create up to 700 jobs, including 300 people employed to build the premises, was given conditional planning permission by Sheffield Council in June 2014, before the Government gave the final go-ahead two months later.
Anti-Ikea campaigners initially said there were ‘strong grounds’ for a legal challenge, but a judicial review was not applied for.
A legal agreement between the council and Ikea was eventually signed in 2015.
In March this year, the Swedish furniture giant submitted a series of planning applications relating to how the store would be constructed and road layout changes, with decisions on the planning applications originally due in May.
While approval has now been granted for the majority of the applications, potential changes to roads around the store are yet to be given the green light.
Sheffield Council development management Howard Baxter said agreement is yet to be reached with the Highways Agency to allow the council to take responsibility for Junction 34 of the M1, where changes are intended to deal with an expected increase in traffic.
Ikea’s highways plans propose changes to Tinsley roundabout that would include altering the position of traffic lights and introducing a proposed fourth lane before the turn-off on to Bawtry Road.
An Ikea spokesman said it was still ‘too early’ to confirm when construction of the 37,000 sq ft superstore on Lock House Road will start or when the store will be open.
He said: “In 2015 we finalised the legal process with Sheffield City Council and took ownership of the site for our new Ikea Sheffield store.
“We are currently working to discharge all the final planning conditions to allow a start on site and these applications are now being dealt with by the city council.
“A time extension was requested by the city council in regard to discharging a planning condition. This is quite normal and purely a technicality. This does not cause any delays to the store build programme.
“We are currently finalising the tendering process for construction of the store and are looking to start site enabling works on site later this summer.
“It is still too early to say when we will be able to make a full start on site with construction work and therefore too early to say when the new store could open.”
The plans for the site are made up of a two-storey store built on a 1,000-space surface car park.
It will also include a cafe and children’s play areas.
The nearest Ikea stores to the city at present are in Nottingham and Leeds.