Monday, 29 July 2013

What to do next? Is Sheffield City Council making the wrong decision?


Town and City centre developments are looking pretty fragile as business propositions, us folk in Bradford still sit, fingers crossed, awaiting action from Westfield over the Broadway site. And meanwhile in Sheffield:

Developer Hammerson today announced it was pulling out of long-awaited plans for a new retail quarter in Sheffield.
 The company said it has agreed with Sheffield City Council that it "would end its development agreement" on proposals for the Sevenstone scheme.

The scheme - just cracking open the egg when I was in Sheffield doing my Masters - has been stalled since 2008 "because of the recession" (no mention of the longer-term trends in retail here). It seems to me that this decision from Hammerson reflects the reality of retail investment - other than in exceptional circumstances it's simply not viable right now.

However, Sheffield City Council, wedded to the 'shiny regeneration' model like most big city councils has this to say:

Leigh Bramall, the city council’s cabinet member for business, skills and development, said the authority was still committed to developing Sevenstone.

He said: "The people of Sheffield have waited long enough for a new retail quarter.

"We have the land assembled, utilities in place, have established the level of funding available, and methodology to inject the funding to undertake supporting public works.

"We have confirmed a scheme is viable and so we will now be seeking a new development partner to move the project forward in the shortest time possible."

I wish the city luck with this approach and, knowing the politics and institutional myopia that so restricts regeneration, hope they find a new development partner.

My question is this. If Hammerson - not exactly a small or insignificant developer - can't make the development stack up with an anchor like John Lewis and the promise of £45 million in public subsidy, what makes the Council think another developer will fill the void?

Perhaps a different approach would help us all rethink the regeneration of City centres?


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