Date set for Next store inquiry

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

The controversy over whether a large Next Home and Garden store can be built near Meadowhall will come to a head next month.

A date has been set for a public inquiry when a Government appointed inspector will hear arguments for and against the £10m scheme.

Scheduled for three days from May 21, it is likely to be a high profile clash between the retailer and the council, given the comments of Next chief executive Lord Wolfson that the authority has effectively declared the city “closed for business”.

More recently, he has accused a few councils of having “an unhealthy mix of Luddite intransigence and incompetence” for frustrating efforts to develop out-of-town stores.

The council wants to protect the city centre, and has so far stood firm in resisting any attempts to expand Meadowhall or to build big stores on its doorstep.

In particular, it is nervous about jeopardising negotiations with developers Hammerson over the proposed - and long delayed - Sevenstone retail quarter. One of the objectors to the Next scheme when it was refused planning permission by the council was Scottish Widows Investment Trust, which is steering the redevelopment of The Moor.

The appeal follows British Land, owners of the site, challenging the council’s stance.

At stake is a Next store selling furniture, beds and fabrics along with outdoor furniture and equipment, creating 125 jobs. It maintains that it would complement its fashion-led business in the city centre.

One of key issues will be whether there is a potential alternative location in an established shopping area that could accommodate Next.

The retailers say there is nowhere suitable and available. The council has pointed to the retail park off Eyre Street, near Moorfoot.

Watching the outcome will be Swedish retail chain Ikea, which is known to have an eye on the east end of Sheffield and could be expected to firm up its interest if Next is given the green light to build an overflow car park at the Sheffield Road/Vulcan Road entrance to the shopping mall.