Should Sheffield look to US for inspiration to revive city centre?

Could features like these in Arizona help liven up Sheffield city centre? (photo: Peter Sephton)
Could features like these in Arizona help liven up Sheffield city centre? (photo: Peter Sephton)
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Could Sheffield take a leaf out of Arizona's book when it comes to reviving the city centre?

That's what a leading campaigner in the Steel City has claimed after returning from a trip to the sun-drenched southwestern state.

Sheffield city centre could with more statues like this one in Arizona, says Peter Sephton (photo: Peter Sephton)

Sheffield city centre could with more statues like this one in Arizona, says Peter Sephton (photo: Peter Sephton)

Despite their vastly contrasting climates, Peter Sephton believes 'cheap but creative' tactics to liven up town and city centres in the US state could be applied just as effectively in South Yorkshire.

READ MORE: How Castlegate in Sheffield is about to rise again
The chairman of Sheffield City Centre Residents' Action Group (SCCRAG) has urged town planners here to take inspiration from their counterparts more than 5,000 miles away on the other side of the Atlantic.

More statues, covered walkways to provide shelter from the rain, outdoor games and open air performance spaces are relatively inexpensive ways, he suggests, of attracting more people to Sheffield city centre amid challenging times for retailers nationwide.

"Sheffield Council is good with big buildings and structures but not so good when it comes to the little things which create character and make people's lives better," said Mr Sephton, who was holidaying with his wife in the Fountain Hills area of Arizona.

Would outdoor games like this attract more people to Sheffield city centre? (photo: Peter Sephton)

Would outdoor games like this attract more people to Sheffield city centre? (photo: Peter Sephton)

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"We have to make the city centre a more attractive place for people to come and we could do worse than look at America, where they initially destroyed city centres and are now starting to rebuild them again.

"I saw some great examples in Arizona of cheap but creative ways to make city centres more appealing, which I think would work over here."

Mr Sephton praised the council's plans to revive Castlegate, where a raised walkway allowing people to view excavations of the former Sheffield Castle grounds is planned, and said he was impressed too with the ongoing regeneration of The Moor.

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But he said sometimes council planners lacked imagination when it came to small but important details, and explained how one developer had been denied permission to extend a riverside walkway because it would have meant reducing the footprint of the building being replaced.

SCCRAG chairman Peter Sephton

SCCRAG chairman Peter Sephton

He also claimed more 'boutique' shops are needed, along with features like sculptures, which he said could add character to city centre streets without being prohibitively expensive, and games such as table football or giant chess boards to entertain visitors.

Diane Jarvis, manager of Sheffield BID, which was set up to support city centre businesses, claimed numerous improvements had already been made or were in the pipeline.

"An attractive city centre is one that is clean, safe and busy, with a fantastic offer of hospitality, entertainment, retail and public spaces for people to enjoy," she said.

"A number of residential projects are in the pipeline for the city centre, offering high quality accommodation for the city’s young professionals. Combine this with an increase in office take up within the city centre and we will soon see a growing population of young people living and working in Sheffield city centre.

Covered walkways offer protection from the sun in Arizona, but could provide shelter from the rain too in Sheffield (photo: Peter Sephton)

Covered walkways offer protection from the sun in Arizona, but could provide shelter from the rain too in Sheffield (photo: Peter Sephton)

"From our Alive After Five strategy, which aims to make Sheffield a vibrant evening destination by promoting places to eat, activities to enjoy and the city’s growing retail offer, to the day-to-day work by our teams on the street to keep Sheffield clean and safe, the BID works alongside our partners to ensure Sheffield city centre is attractive to both residents and visitors alike."

Should Sheffield city centre have a permanent bandstand where local acts can perform free gigs? (photo: Peter Sephton)

Should Sheffield city centre have a permanent bandstand where local acts can perform free gigs? (photo: Peter Sephton)