Market forces face a big test after years of delays

How the new market on The Moor could look
How the new market on The Moor could look

A CRUNCH year is looming for The Moor. shopping area

Construction of a new market hall and renovation of the upper section of the precinct is due to being around the middle of 2012 – after many years of delays and, in recent times, the closure of a number of shops.

A programme has been announced by the council, against a background of doubts by some market traders, who believe the longer the saga goes on, the less likely it is to reach fruition.

“I think we are all a bit weary,” said Paul Tissington, who has worked in Castle Market for 40 years and says he has seen 12 relocation projects come and go.

But the council believes next year will see the breakthrough.

It is pinning its hopes on a partnership with Scottish Widows Investment Partnership Property Trust, which has a long lease on much of The Moor.

Already land opposite Atkinson’s department store has been cleared ready for construction of 200 stalls and six shops to face the precinct as part of a £16.7m project that is due to begin in June.

Construction is being tied to a year-long project to upgrade the top of The Moor in line with the improvements that have been completed on the lower section – and financed by the Government on condition the markets are built.

Other changes are planned next year.

Scottish Widows are also preparing to demolish the corner of the precinct and Furnival Gate, once occupied by a McDonalds fast food operation, to make way for shops in a £15m scheme.

Both the council and Scottish Widows say they are committed to Sheffield’s first major retail scheme in many years, which is underlined by the detailed redevelopment programme.

Cabinet member for business, jobs and growth Coun Helen Mirfin-Boukouris said the markets would be in a better location and added: “We feel confident.”

But the combination of numerous false dawns and a growing number of empty shops because of the economic downturn means many critics need convincing, including some in Castle Market, who have been waiting to move for years and have been given rent discounts to reflect their plight in a building they were due to move out of years ago.

Mr Tissington said: “Perhaps I’m part of a minority but I don’t think this will go forward. It’s just something else that will peter out.

“The council says they have invited tenders and they are much further on than ever before, and we are aware there is a plot of land, but let’s see if a brick is laid.”