Restaurants, cafés, bars and apartments could all be added to Fargate in Sheffield city centre after business leaders united in a mission to make the street a ‘force to be reckoned with’.
The Star can exclusively reveal a consultation will run over the summer on plans to bring a new identity to the street and neighbouring High Street, which include improved public spaces, living accommodation, seated areas as well as restaurants, bars and cafés.
Sheffield Council is proposing to consult with owners and occupiers of buildings on Fargate and surrounding streets and, together with Sheffield Business Improvement District (BID), would look to gain funding to redesign shop front and change planning guidance, where relevant.
The changes would also pave the way for more buildings to be used as restaurants with specific outdoor seating areas and encourage the use of the units’ upper floors to add residential, commercial, community and heath-based facilities to the Fargate offering.
The announcement comes after stakeholders said they thought Fargate had been ‘overlooked’, ‘felt unsafe’ and looked ‘shabby’ in a survey.
Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment at Sheffield Council, said: “We are committed to giving Fargate a new sense of purpose as the gateway to our excellent and transformative Heart Of The City II scheme.
“We want Fargate to be a force to be reckoned with. You can’t hide from the fact that Fargate is changing, and, that it faces challenges. But by uniting behind this draft vision we can see the green shoots of recovery on this historic street.
“It is so important that we have signed up to this joint commitment to improving the street. We are one city centre, and it’s crucial that, as the Moor and Heart Of The City develop new identities, that Fargate can do the same.
“We also want people across the city to have their say about how Fargate develops so we can create a street that works for us all.”
Coun Iqbal said Christmas footfall on Fargate increased by three per cent last year and added only five per cent of shops on Fargate were currently empty.
He said the council was still exploring how the improvements can be made but said everyone uniting was an ‘important first step’
The vision has been agreed by several of those responsible for many of Fargate’s key businesses and attractions.
Both H&M and Next will move from Fargate to The Moor later this year but those interviewed as part of the survey, commissioned by BID, said the creation of a specialist task group and the addition of residential accommodation could help breathe new life into the street – both of which the council have vowed to do as part of its proposals.
Diane Jarvis, chief executive of Sheffield BID, said: “There are a lot of positive things happening in the city centre at the moment with Heart of the City II and The Moor but we are custodians for the entire city centre and Fargate is a important piece of that.
“It has some unique challenges in that, unlike The Moor, it’s quite fragmented in terms of its ownership. We originally launched this survey It was worth getting the views of stakeholders as to what could be done on Fargate moving forward.”
The report said that in the survey of stakeholders, Fargate was ‘universally seen as in a poor state of health’ but it added it had also been dealt a ‘tough hand’ by issues such as overrunning construction works, multiple ownership of buildings and 'scrappy street furniture’.
One stakeholder said: “Fargate has gone from the site of prime pitch, stretching into Pinstone Street to a poor quality pedestrianised high street. In days gone by it was a connector, but now it doesn’t really connect to anything and the activity in the centre is moving up the hill to be adjacent to the Peace Gardens.”
Stakeholders also raised concerns about the number of beggars and the effect they had on shoppers and retailers but the report added: “While people were generally negative about the current situation of Fargate – alongside other parts of the city centre – there was a clear passion and enthusiasm for change.”
Ms Jarvis added: "Through discussion with businesses and other stakeholders, Sheffield BID has been looking at ways to address commercial and physical challenges in creating the right environment to attract new operators.
“We have learned a lot about the potential and opportunity for Fargate and the surrounding area.
“We look forward to working in partnership to create a shared vision to the benefit of all, but it’s vital this vision is delivered quickly to boost the vibrancy of Fargate and its feeder streets.
“We need to act fast to engage visitors and attract investment as part of the wider transformation of Sheffield city centre.”
The report said: “It was made clear that there is no simple, single silver bullet. Rather there was a desire for an entrepreneurial approach that draws on a melange of types of intervention, sustained over a period of time.
“Short term wins will be essential for building that trust and confidence, that can be built on. Critically, many stakeholders thought that doing nothing was not an option and that immediate actions can help to demonstrate recognition of the challenges and intent to build a place that is vibrant and engaging for all groups with a blend of uses we want in out city centre.”
Ms Jarvis said there was an opportunity ‘to do something unique with Fargate.
She added: “Fargate should be a destination with activities that bring in visitors. There’s a whole host of opportunities going forward and if you can get a mix – not just retail – that would help with our Alive After Five campaign and while ever it’s solely retail you’re not going to get that.”
The draft vision is set to be endorsed by cabinet in the summer following a period of public consultation.
Plans are also being drawn up for how Fargate can support the Invictus Trials scheduled to take place in July this year.