BUSINESS leaders fear visitors will be drawn away from Sheffield city centre following the opening of a £350-million new shopping centre in Leeds.
Gordon Millward, the South and East Yorkshire branch chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the Trinity Leeds shopping centre will have a backlash in Sheffield.
He said: “The centre will draw people there.
“It is bound to have an affect on business in Sheffield. Some of our members are worried.
“Any improvement in Leeds is a threat against Sheffield – Meadowhall shopping centre will lose some of their customers too.
“A lot of the people who live midway between Leeds and Sheffield come into the city centre after visiting Meadowhall, but if fewer people are going there it could have a bad affect.”
The one million sq feet Trinity Leeds, which houses more than 120 shops, stores and restaurants, opened on Thursday. It expects to attract up to 23 million people a year.
Mr Millward, who works on behalf of 4,500 members in South and East Yorkshire, said the fate of small businesses in Sheffield was still in ‘our hands’.
He said: “If you look at the centre of Sheffield, there isn’t anything to draw people in.
“While the Leeds centre is a threat, it is still in our hands to help businesses here.
“We are behind the times in Sheffield. The parking charges are tremendous and the infrastructure is not there because of the short-sightedness of the Chamber of Commerce and Sheffield Council.”
However, Richard Wright, Chamber executive director, said: “Trinity will draw some people away, but Sheffield will also win people back as we have a different identity.
“Sheffield has competition in retail areas from Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham and that will never go away. The most important thing for us in Sheffield is identity what we need to do in order to attract what we want.”
Leeds hopes to leapfrog Manchester and Liverpool in the CACI ranking of the top retail destinations in the UK as a result of the centre.
A spokeswoman for Meadowhall, which attracts about 25 million people a year, said they did not want to ‘comment on their competitors’.