London Calling: Sheffield shows the capital’s movers and shakers why it’s the hottest property in town
The Star editor Nancy Fielder on why our city is attracting attention for all the right reasons in the corridors of power.
Tonight, we take Sheffield's most important crusade of modern times to the capital. Excuse the battle cry, but if Sheffielders are ever going to sit back and beam in delight at how our city is progressing then we need leaders who lead from the front. Tonight everything we love about our city will be creeping - no stomping - into London ... the Houses of Parliament terrace no less. The venue is historic and influential but it is the people who count. Three hundred London property professionals will be hearing from a collection of Sheffielders who are responsible for assets worth £4billion. There are only two such groups in existence in the country - Sheffield Property Association and the London Property Alliance. Together they are forging unprecedented opportunities for both – and what a boon. The ripples are spreading and an increasing number of businesses are paying attention to Sheffield as it blossoms. The conversation will be all about how businesses in London and Sheffield can work together, share initiatives, successes and roll out the red carpet. It may not often be said out loud but the balance of power continues to shift in our city. This is not local politicians championing their electorate, it is businesses who can see that they needed to step up and lead from the front if they wanted real change. This is also not a quiet revolution. As funding seeps from our local authorities, they must power initiatives with an acknowledgement that they are no longer in the front seat. They have a crucial role in helping bright sparks to grab that steering wheel and refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer, but councils can no longer do it alone. It isn't just about making sure we have a seat at the discussion table, it is making it all about us. What it really is, actually, is just common sense. The principles remain the same. We, they and you want what is best for Sheffield and all its people. Success as a city will bring the same for individuals - if done right - and for our region - if politics can ever be laid to rest. Personality and egos have no place in a positive future. You might not be able to vote for business leaders but they are certainly accountable in that unless they make a success of their speciality, they'll be unemployed – and so will the Sheffielders who rely on their business. Perhaps tonight it is one small step towards this city looking more outwards and asking what can we each do as individuals to make it grow, to make that stamp on the national map bolder and to say we are no longer putting up with the status quo. Sheffield is amazing, it is attracting international developers and that all-important crane count shows no sign of slowing down, indeed, quite the opposite. So tonight, we will be the talk of Westminster and the starting point of conversations among leading developers in London. If those in positions of influence in this city have chosen not to be there or wish to ignore where such discussions can lead - they should perhaps be reconsidering their ten-year plan. If they don't, the city must, for all our sakes. All the key institutions in this city could do with a kick up the bum. It is not good enough to be talking to ourselves, to be afraid of putting our city out there or to wait for others to lead. There's no choice here. Sheffield knows what it has to offer and we're making sure investors in the country's most powerful organisations fully understand that too. So we take the fight to London with a smile on the Steel City's face and excited anticipation at a boldness which might not feel very northern but is just what we - and they - need.
FUND MAKING A RETURN ON £120M STAKE
“Sheffield is an investable environment with good growth - and its bespoke property association is good for the city.” That’s according to the manager of a fund which has pumped £120m into a city centre regeneration scheme that is making healthy returns for investors. Phil Huby is head of retail at Aberdeen Standard which has spent huge sums on The Moor shopping precinct. It has attracted big retail names and growing numbers of shoppers and is set to be fully occupied by Christmas, he says. He added: “There is so much going on compared to a lot of similar-sized places in the UK. In all sectors you get a sense just walking around there’s a lot going on. It’s a positive environment from a growth perspective.” Aberdeen bought The Moor in 2010. Since then it has built a new market, cinema and shops including a large Primark and Next. H&M, New Look, a ‘well known’ name to be announced soon, and a bowling alley, have taken space in an under-construction block, leaving just two smaller units. Mr Huby believes they will be trading in time for Christmas, such is the interest. That means all of The Moor will be taken – unusual in today’s challenging retail climate. Mr Huby said Sheffield City Council moved quickly on planning applications compared to other cities. And Aberdeen Standard was looking very seriously at joining Sheffield Property Association. He added: “The S-PA is unique. You see a lot of organisations around the UK focused on trade or tourism, it’s good for Sheffield to have a bespoke property group. “It seems very well thought through, with a competent administration. We’ve liaised with them on a number of matters and we are looking very seriously at joining.”
GROUP HAS STRONG TIES IN LONDON
Three hundred London property professionals will attend the Houses of Parliament this evening for an event co-hosted by Sheffield Property Association. The group’s involvement is a mark of just how far it has come in the two years since it was set up to raise the city’s profile. Now boasting 74 members responsible for assets worth £4bn, it has forged powerful links with the London Property Alliance. So much so, it was invited to co-host tonight’s reception - a high point in the LPA’s calendar. Martin McKervey, chair of the S-PA, said it was an unprecedented opportunity to talk about why London should be paying more attention to what is happening in Sheffield. He added: “The Sheffield Property Association has prioritised building strong ties across London, they are key if we are going to attract the investment we need to transform our economy and close the north-south divide. “Cities around the UK are competing for investment from the private sector and support from government to fund essential infrastructure, fuel our economies and create jobs, particularly in the North.” The reception comes after the S-PA and Museums Sheffield showcased the city’s Ruskin collection at an event in London in March. Mr McKervey said they also had a strong partnership with Sheffield City Council “at a time of unprecedented cuts.” “For the first time in a long time the public and private sector have to work together. “The SPA is raising Sheffield’s profile, building relationships with people who manage trillion pound funds and speaking with one voice to those who have come to find out more.”