A great weekend for Sheffield?

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg delivers his speech at the Liberal Democrat Party spring conference held at City Hall, Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday March 13, 2011. Nick Clegg will seek to soothe anxious Liberal Democrats today after they dealt him a sharp rebuke over the coalition's controversial NHS reforms. See PA story POLITICS LibDems. Photo credit should read: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg delivers his speech at the Liberal Democrat Party spring conference held at City Hall, Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday March 13, 2011. Nick Clegg will seek to soothe anxious Liberal Democrats today after they dealt him a sharp rebuke over the coalition's controversial NHS reforms. See PA story POLITICS LibDems. Photo credit should read: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

FOR civic leaders, police and protesters, there was the opportunity this week to reflect on a satisfactory weekend.

Not everybody, though, was counting the benefits of the Liberal Democrat conference.

Many shops and other businesses reported takings were down as a result of customers steering clear of the city centre – and there was the £2m bill for the huge police operation, which will be met from the public purse.

The figures tell the story: 3,000 delegates, 5,000 demonstrators, 1,000 police and one arrest.

For one weekend at least, Sheffield was at the centre of the UK political map, with widespread media coverage of the event in Nick Clegg’s backyard and the City Hall protected by an eight-foot metal fence.

“This has been a great weekend for Sheffield,” said council leader Paul Scriven. “Yes, some businesses have had a dip but for others it has broken all records.

“An extra £2.5m has been brought into the city and the thousands of visitors who came here were impressed with what they saw. We have shown we are able to put on big events – we have shown Sheffield is open for business.”

Ian Slater, chair of Hospitality Sheffield and general manager of the Park Inn hotel, said hotels were fully booked. “What the general public perhaps don’t realise is that there is a lot of competition now to stage a major event like this.

“When one of these comes up, every provincial city in the country competes to host it. A lot of work goes into bidding for an event and then putting it on. There is no doubt it has brought a lot of money into the city. We have had great feedback from the delegates – many of whom commented how much the city centre had changed for the better.”

South Yorkshire Police defended the scale of their operation and said they were “very pleased” with the outcome.

Sheffield District Commander, Chief Supt Simon Torr, said: “Our job was to provide a safe and secure environment for the conference to take place, to allow peaceful protests for the people who wanted to come and vent their feelings and enable Sheffielders to go about their daily business.

“Everything went ahead with minimal disruption thanks to a lot of planning and hard work and we’ve had some really positive feedback from delegates and protesters.”

There was only one arrest for public disorder as officers aimed for what they said was a relatively low profile with no crash helmets or visors.

“The number of protesters was at the lower end of what we’d expected but we had to plan for the worst case scenario,” said Chief Supt Torr. “There were some people intent on causing disruption who occupied around three shops in Fargate but we were able to deal with them swiftly because of the resources we had in place and they were moved back to the protest zone.”

Many stores deployed extra security on their doors. John Lewis closed its main Barkers Pool entrance on Saturday.

Mothercare on Barkers Pool closed early on Saturday afternoon after news spread of the store occupations bid. Assistant manager Janet Green said business had been “really slow. The police advised us to close the shutters if there was any trouble, so that’s what we’re doing.”

Helen Garrett, manager of the Proper Pasty Shop in Pinstone Street, said trade was “dead” on Friday and “worse” on Saturday. Michael Tynam, manager of electronics store Maplin, said: “We’re wasting a perfectly good weekend of trading.”