The hubbub over a proposed IKEA store in Sheffield continued this week - even though no formal plans have yet been submitted.
Opposition Liberal Democrats on the council pointed to the prospect of a windfall in business rates for the city, which prompted a warning from a community project that the price should not be a worsening of air pollution in the Tinsley area.
Views are being expressed ahead of a planning application by IKEA - expected in a month or so - for a two-storey store on the former site of Tinsley Wire off Sheffield Road, between Meadowhall Retail Park and Meadowhall.
The company says the project would cost £60m and create 200 jobs in construction, 400 in the store and up to 100 in associated positions such as maintenance and a créche.
It claims widespread public support in public exhibitions, with some shoppers looking forward to travelling to the east end of Sheffield instead of to Leeds or Nottingham.
Already the city’s Lib Dems have nailed their colours to the mast, and this week underlined their support for IKEA by highlighting the benefits that would be generated in business rates - an estimated £1.5m to £2m a year, according to the council’s own figures.
Local Lib Dem leader Shaffaq Mohammed said: “Under new funding rules, introduced by the Coalition, 50% of the new business rates would go straight to the council, which means £1m to support local services like Stocksbridge Leisure Centre or local libraries.
“Yet local people and the business community feel like Labour politicians are dragging their feet over IKEA. The council need to be pro-active in supporting IKEA’s application to ensure it overcomes any hurdles, rather than constantly highlighting the potential drawbacks.
“IKEA moving to Sheffield will be a real boost for the local economy, creating 700 new jobs.”
But Neil Parry, of the Sheffield East End Quality of Life Initiative, which is funded by Sheffield Primary Care Trust, urged Coun Mohammed to look at the health costs of the poor air quality in the area, which could be made worse by an increase in traffic fumes.
“In relation to air pollution you will see that health conditions associated with air pollution are significantly worse than the city average and Tinsley has the worst living environment domain for the index of multiple deprivation in the city.”
Across the city, it is estimated that poor air quality, much of its caused by traffic, accounts for up to 500 premature deaths a year in Sheffield, especially the young and old with existing heart and lung conditions.
IKEA will submit details of the implications for traffic - and for trade in city centre - as part of its planning application.
In particular, it will have to show that local roads would be able to cope with the extra pressure, highlighting ways of smoothing out flows, either by getting more capacity out of the existing highway network or adding to it.
The Government’s Highways Agency will aim to ensure that there are no tailbacks affecting the M1.