“Sheffield is a resilient city” – council announce ‘ambitious plans’ for city centre following news of John Lewis closure

An optimistic Sheffield Council has insisted it has ‘ambitious plans for a city centre that competes on a global stage’ despite the shock closure of retail landmark John Lewis.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 3:13 pm
Nalin Seneviratne, director for city centre development.

The department store is the latest in the city to announce it is shutting, blaming the ‘irreversible impact’ of the pandemic.

While shoppers lamented the closure and questioned what it meant for the city centre, the council said that the city was “resilient.”

Nalin Seneviratne, council’s director of city centre development, said: “The planned closure of John Lewis is sad news. As Cole Brothers in 1847, then as John Lewis, it has been a retail landmark in our city for decades.

“It’s no secret that high streets across the country have faced challenges over the past decade, and no one could have prepared for the impacts of the global pandemic. But Sheffield is a resilient city, and we already have in place ambitious plans for a city centre that competes on a global stage.

“Our Heart of the City plans will deliver between 5,500 and 7,000 jobs, create social spaces, homes, showcase our incredible culture, deliver restaurants, workspace, creative hubs – with a focus on socialising, alongside a fantastic retail offering that supports new and existing businesses.

“There is a lot to look forward to in Sheffield and we’re already seeing great progress, with West Bar’s leisure and office spaces, Cambridge Street Collective’s cultural and entertainment hub, multimillion-pound investment in the Moor and Fargate, and proposals for the 6,000ft Pounds Park, with a café, bar, terrace, water play area and urban orchard.

“We are already working towards building a world-class, sustainable, modern city centre that drives our economy and can continue to thrive long into the future.”

Last year the council paid £3m for the lease of the John Lewis site that entered it into a new 20-year modern lease for the building in return for a turnover based rent.

The authority says John Lewis is still tied to a lease with the council and a commercial arrangement would need to be agreed between the parties, with a payment from John Lewis, to end it. The council will retain the site and says there will be ‘no financial loss.’ ​​​​​​​

Originally, the council would have had to also pay towards refurbishment costs of the building as part of the deal when works were undertaken, but none have started to date.