There can be no doubting that IKEA’S announcement that it wants to open a store in the east end of Sheffield has found favour with many local people.
Supporters include Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg who this week urged the council “to show some leadership and ensure this development goes ahead”.
He said: “Apart from the fact many people would welcome not having to travel to Leeds or Nottingham to shop at IKEA, it is quite clear that Sheffielders are overwhelmingly in favour of this opportunity for new investment and jobs
“Instead of pouring cold water on the proposal from the outset, local Labour politicians should be falling over themselves to overcome any planning issues and secure the 700 jobs that would come to Sheffield.”
(IKEA says there would be 400 at the store, 200 building it and 100 in spin-offs such as home deliveries and running a creche.)
Mr Clegg added: “In today’s economic environment we cannot afford to turn away hundreds of new jobs. It sends out a terrible message to potential investors who will be pushed into the arms of our competitors such as Leeds or Manchester.
“With the recently announced hikes in city centre car parking charges, a new NEXT retail development being turned away and the continuing delays to Sevenstone – under this council administration Sheffield is in danger of being seen as anti-business.”
While pressing hard for Sevenstone to proceed as soon as possible, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce said the IKEA store would “generate regional wealth, jobs and further investment” and complement Meadowhall.
Yet the council remains nervous about the impact on the city centre, and apprehensions will not eased by an initial response from John Lewis, which is a key part of the long-delayed Sevenstone retail quarter project.
“The prospect of another major shop to be built at Meadowhall seems completely at odds with the council’s stated priority to strengthen the city centre, but we will be interested in seeing the full details of IKEA’s proposals,” said a John Lewis spokesperson.
Traffic implications, for the M1 junction and surrounding roads, are also a potential obstacle. The council will have to satisfy the Government’s Highways Agency.
An exhibition into the proposal runs tomorrow from 10am to 5.30pm and Saturday from 10am to 5pm. It will move to Tinsley Community Centre, off Bawtry Road, on Monday from 3pm to 7.30pm. A planning application will follow.
But beware of the traffic:
Traffic levels will soar if the IKEA is built.
“Ask anybody who’s been to Leeds or Nottingham IKEAs,” said the Sheffield group, the East End Quality of Life Initiative.
“Tinsley and other parts of the east end are already suffering the health effects of the current illegal levels of air pollution in the area.”
Worst spots are around Bawtry Road and the M1.