‘Positive move’, says business

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Business leaders in Sheffield welcomed the latest strategy to try to get the retail quarter off the ground.

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The Chamber is absolutely delighted to see such a positive move on this project.

“It is a critical development for the city and we applaud the extremely positive message this sends and the ambitious timescale it lays out.

“We are hoping to see something distinctive, world leading and fit for purpose in 15 years ahead. This is a great opportunity for us.”

Political reaction was more guarded.

New Liberal Democrat leader Colin Ross said the party had urged the council to “get tough” with Hammerson years ago and to look at a Plan B for the site.

“Unfortunately, under Labour’s watch we’ve seen three wasted years, while countless other cities have moved ahead with their own schemes.”

This week’s “warm words” from the council “appear to be a step forward, but Sheffielders will know that we’ve been in this position before. If Labour are serious about delivering this project, we’ll need to see concrete action, not just words,” said Coun Ross.

Even if the latest approach pays off, Sheffield will still have to wait until next year for demolition to begin and 2016 for a start of construction with the aim of the first doors opening in 2019.

The council says this is still roughly the same timetable as was envisaged when it was working with Hammerson.

The concept remains the same - a 600,000 sq ft development that will attract big retail names, some new to Sheffield, some looking to relocate to bigger premises in the city centre. The Next store, for example, is one of its smallest city centre outlets in the country. Boots also has relatively small premises.

One of the keys will be striking a deal with John Lewis, which is refurbishing part of its Barkers Pool store, but which has indicated for years that it wants a bigger and better presence in Sheffield.

Initially, it was looking at a new store on the site of the old Wellington Street fire station, then the focus switched to redeveloping the existing premises.

The company is under pressure to make a firm commitment either way.

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