Distinct identity the key to success as city maps out its next 10 years

Sheffield 2025: Bigger, Brighter, Bolder event held at The Balance by the property forum of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Chris Etchells
Sheffield 2025: Bigger, Brighter, Bolder event held at The Balance by the property forum of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Chris Etchells

Sheffield needs to forge its own distinct identity in order to succeed over the next decade, those tasked with leading the city’s development concluded this week.

At the Sheffield 2025: Bigger, Brighter, Bolder event, organised by the Chamber of Commerce, a panel of key individuals urged the 150 businessmen and women in attendance to play their part over the next 10 years and beyond.

Paul Sargent, chief executive of Queensberry – the council’s development partner on the new retail quarter – admitted the city centre was in a state of ‘turmoil’ , but said his firm had a reputation for bringing life to stalled projects.

“We do like a challenge, and were happy for Sheffield to be the next one,” he said.

“Meadowhall stopped the natural growth in the city centre.

“That’s history and hopefully in the future both will sit side by side very comfortably.”

And discussing the retail quarter, he said: “I can’t put names to shops at the moment but if we get our way we should have a John Lewis anchor.”

Complementing the retail quarter will be The Moor, which by 2025 will have a new cinema, several restaurants and high-profile retailers.

Ranald Phillips, director at Ashcroft, which manages development on The Moor, said: “Every other major town and city in the country supports the likes of Jigsaw and White Company. I put down a list of 50 retailers Sheffield doesn’t have in five or 10 minutes.

“Sheffield was the only place that scored zero – apart from John Lewis.”

He said footfall on The Moor had already outstripped Fargate. And he too warned that Sheffield needed its own identity.

“You need to make up your minds. Do you want to compete or do you want to let Leeds and Manchester do all the brash commercial stuff?”

Meanwhile Simon Gawthorpe, managing director of Urban Splash which is redeveloping Park Hill with residential flats and student accommodation, said: “There’s a lot of great stuff being done in our northern cities. It’s catching on to these things that are unique, and the character of the city, and growing that.

“We feel very passionately about Park Hill. We think we are having great success there and it has a big future.

“We have more enquiries about Park Hill than any other scheme we have – about 80 a month.”

The call from the panel – made up of self-confessed ‘outsiders’ to the city – was for native and adopted Sheffielders to step up and help the transformation.

Mark Jackson of Scarborough Group, which has a number of interests in Sheffield including the Digital Campus, said civic leadership was important, but developers needed to be sympathetic to city politics.

“Community can be a tremendous force for good if you harness the public mood,” he said.

He praised The Outdoor City as an initiative which sets Sheffield apart, and identified the Northern Powerhouse as a positive brand.

“Sheffield needs to be its own place. Not a wannabe Leeds or Manchester.”