Gondolas may go with the flow on revived riverbanks

A new Forum is looking at ways to spruce up one of Sheffield's most neglected neighbourhoods - and this weekend will be asking members of the public for their ideas. Lucy Ashton reports.

CABLE cars and gondolas in Sheffield?

This photograph may look like a futuristic Venice but these are just some of the ideas which could revitalise some of Sheffield's most neglected areas.

A new organisation will meet this weekend to discuss how to regenerate struggling parts of the city around Upperthorpe, Netherthorpe, Southey, Owlerton and Burngreave.

The Neepsend Forum, recently set up by local business people, says the riverside and surrounding areas from Waingate to Parkwood Springs are ripe for development.

The Forum is tipping the historic yet neglected industrial areas on the banks of the River Don as the next renaissance hotspot for Sheffield.

This weekend the Forum will host a workshop to find out what members of the public think.

Already the area is home to attractions such as the Ski Village, the Foundry Climbing Centre and Kelham Island Museum.

It also has some of the best real ale pubs in Yorkshire including the Fat Cat, Kelham Island Tavern, Riverside Caf Bar, Cask & Cutler and the Gardeners Rest.

But while the Forum is keen to see new developments, it also says any schemes must be 'sustainable, sensitive and benefit local residents.'

Eddie Munnelly, the Forum's founder member and landlord of the Gardeners Rest, said: "We want to see high quality development with more re-use of old buildings like Cornish Place, Aizlewoods Mill and SCEDU's Enterprise Centre on Mowbray Street.

"Development should promote the area's special historical qualities.

"We don't want to see large swathes of land being amalgamated and then 'master-planned' by single developers.

"The new section of the ring road is due to be built through Neepsend shortly so we are identifying key sites and buildings with a view to conservation and protection.

"We want improved connections to the city centre and valley sides, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, instead of cars being allowed to dominate the environment, cutting the area off from the city centre as happened at the Canal Basin.

"We need to prevent land and buildings being bought and banked and then left derelict for years until increased prices prompts them to be sold on."

The Forum has a wide ranging membership and is supported by Sheffield Community Enterprise Development Unit and the Black Community Forum as well as Netherthorpe and Upperthorpe Community Alliance.

Laura Moynahan, chief executive of Netherthorpe and Upperthorpe Community Alliance, says the area needs a mix of developments, not just residential.

She says: "Neepsend has the potential to be a new renaissance project - a distinct and vibrant piece of the city with employment, residential and leisure opportunities for everyone, particularly for the local communities.

"Gated housing developments are not the way forward.

"We need a genuine mix of uses and types of residential and other accommodation which enliven the street and riverside.

"We don't want boarded up and empty ground floor units beneath hundreds of flats as in the city centre."

While many new businesses have moved into the area alongside traditional industries, the Forum is concerned there is no strategic plan to indicate how Neepsend should be developed.

It has already commissioned two surveys looking at ways in which the area should be transformed.

On Saturday it is hosting a design workshop together with Sheffield and Hallam Universities and the Sheffield Society of Architects.

The workshops will be from 10am to 4pm at the Big Room at Sheffield Community Enterprise Development Unit, 53 Mowbray Street.

Forum members and postgraduates from Sheffield University's School of Architecture, who have been studying the area, will lead walks around Neepsend during the workshop and there will also be activities for children.

Local businesses, residents, developers and anyone else with an interest in the area are invited to contribute their ideas.

For more information about the workshop e-mail Paul Skelton on paul@skeltonciq.freeserve.co.uk or call 07703 130698.