Members of the DLP team attended the ‘Sheffield 2025: Bigger, Brighter, Bolder’ event hosted by the Sheffield Property and Regeneration Committee in January.
The Panel of speakers included key private sector stakeholders who are currently involved in bringing forward development within the City. This included Queensbury Real Estate, Ashcroft Asset Management, Urban Splash and the Scarborough Group.
Paul Sargent of Queensbury began by providing a much anticipated update on the new Sheffield Retail Quarter. This included confirmation that the delivery of Phase 1, comprising 140,000 sq.ft of office space and safeguarding 3,000 jobs within the City, had begun on site and should be complete by 2019. He also confirmed that work with the City Council is ongoing to deliver a retail-led scheme also including residential and leisure space by 2021, with the aspiration to bring a significant number of new high end stores to the City.
Queensbury’s strong track record of delivering difficult urban regeneration schemes in locations such as Bath should support the delivery of this long awaited scheme and Paul pointed to the potential for long term student retention as an opportunity spin off employment growth in Sheffield. He also indicated that the scheme would come forward regardless of John Lewis’ continuing commitment to the City or not.
A longer term view on the challenges of working within the political environment in Sheffield was provided by Ranald Philips of Ashcroft Asset Management, who continue to deliver phased regeneration of The Moor retail thoroughfare in the city centre. Recognising the specific challenges presented by a city centre that has long underperformed, Ranald highlighted that Sheffield is the largest city in the UK without a single high-end retailer, despite the Hallam constituency being the wealthiest outside of London. The importance of phased growth as part of a longer term strategy, which focuses on not just the retail offer, but on the City’s existing strengths required the support of the private sector in order to succeed.
Simon Gawthorpe outlined his view on the City’s strengths, based on his experience as a relative newcomer to the area. This included the quality of the public realm supporting the City’s green credentials and the contribution of the two universities, which has fed into the strength of the research and development, and digital media sectors. Many SME’s in these sectors now occupy space in the Urban Splash-led Park Hill redevelopment, which has secured the regeneration of a Grade II* listed building on the edge of the city centre.
Mark Jackson of the Scarborough Group, who have a number of development projects in the City, focused on the importance of leadership to steer growth and the need for developers to foster collaborative relationships with the local authority and the wider community, in order to gain support for proposals. He highlighted that the city needs a sensible plan for the scale of new office space proposed, so as not to dilute the overall offer. Importantly, Sheffield should not try and compete with Leeds/Manchester as part of the Northern Powerhouse, but should harness the characteristics that draw people to live in the City, including the outdoor space and knowledge economies created by the universities and the hospitals.
Overall, the Panel acknowledged that it takes time to develop a city and all sectors must work hard to secure long term growth, avoiding the risk posed by the short term political cycles. Within this context Sheffield could look to the Cambridge model of growth to develop a City building on knowledge and cultural based economies and taking care of SME businesses and foreign investors.