Betting shop scheme ‘threat to quarter’

Lucy Jo Newell and Kirsteen Hardie in their independent clothes shop on Devonshire Street.
Lucy Jo Newell and Kirsteen Hardie in their independent clothes shop on Devonshire Street.

Protesters fear the Devonshire Quarter’s reputation for independent traders is being jeopardised by plans for a betting shop.

More than 80 objections have been lodged in response to an application to convert a shop in Division Street into a branch of William Hill’s - and many of them express concern for the future of the area on the fringe of the city centre.

Kirsteen Hardie, who runs the Syd and Mallory clothing shop in Devonshire Street with Lucy Jo Newell, has told the council of the struggle to keep the street independent.

“It is the only street in the city centre that makes it somewhere to visit that is different from our neighbouring cities,” she says. “This difference has been slowly taken away over the years and replaced with chain convenience stores and cafes.”

Kirsteen, whose business selling vintage clothes and artwork moved across the road after five years in The Forum, added: “To keep Sheffield different and a place to be proud of again we must keep independent stores on Devonshire Street. All of the shops on this street all know each other and support each other and we have a great community which is what it should be about.”

Another objector, artist Tom Holmes, says: “Since Sheffield continually advertises itself as a ‘cultural city’ and narrowly missed out on being named city of culture, I believe that it would be a terrible shame to allow this unit to be changed from a hub of creative activity into a betting shop”.

Green councillor for the Central ward, Jillian Creasy, says: Division Street is one of the few remaining streets with enough independent shops to make it a ‘destination’. Having some food and financial outlets in the mix is helpful, but once the proportion swings too far away from shops, the rest will no longer be able to survive.”

Another key issue - raised by Sheffield City Centre Residents Action Group - is the increasing number of betting shops in and around the city centre.

And Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield said: “In the current economic climate we’re seeing too many shopping streets dominated by betting shops, payday lenders and pawn brokers. The vitality and range of independent shops is what makes Division Street such a central part of the city centre’s shopping ‘offer’. Lots of my constituents are concerned by this planning application and I hope the council will do what it can to address these concerns.

“The Government has changed the rules so landlords no longer have to get permission to change the use of their premises.”