Campaign hots up to save Sheffield hardware shop

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

A CAMPAIGN to save a Sheffield hardware shop from closure was in full flow this week as the number of individual protests rose to 120.

Community organisation Broomhill Forum has also thrown its weight behind the efforts to secure the future of Williamson Hardware, which has been a fixture in the Fulwood Road shopping parade for 52 years.

After a meeting attended by directors Andrew and Jonathan Williamson, Forum secretary Howard Fry said: “There is very strong support for them.”

Critics fear the store is due to be turned into a Sainsbury’s neighbourhood store once Williamson’s lease expires in November 2013.

But the grounds for objection are limited at the moment because the only indication is a planning application from the landlord to rejig the premises.

The Forum is lodging a protest on the basis that Williamson’s is crucial to the mix of businesses that help form a vibrant district shopping centre.

The shop sells a wide range of items, from kitchenware to garden equipment to electrical goods, and the community is rallying to oppose what they see as a threat to a local shop from one of the big retail chains.

Many of its customers are students and former students.

One objector, Gill Hughes, is telling the council that she came to Sheffield as a student in 1970. “I have never lived in Broomhill, but feel it’s character should be maintained as Betjeman famously declared it to be one of the loveliest urban suburbs, and I enjoy visiting and shopping there because it’s a bit different.

“Williamsons has been a part of the shape of Broomhill for all my life in Sheffield and a wonderful, clean, tidy, up-to-date fascinating shop where all, students and the rest of us, can get almost any item of hardware we want, including the stuff the big chains don’t stock any more.

“It’s brilliant for the students too – equipping their new homes. Why should we lose more character in Sheffield to the supermarket chains? Williamsons have worked so hard for so long to keep a good shop and why should they be forced out?”

Another objector, writer Danuta Reah, says: “Williamson’s is an important shop for Broomhill residents. It provides an excellent service that allows us to purchase items that we would otherwise have to drive to other locations for.

“As a local family, we buy from the shop at least once a week and its loss would be a significant problem for us.”

Dr Liz Brewster describes Williamson’s as “a Sheffield institution, and a very useful one at that. It’s my first port of call if I need something for the house, and is a friendly and pleasant place to shop.

“As a small independent trader, it should be supported through the recession, rather than ejected from the Broomhill high street. The number of independent shops and cafes in Broomhill is one of its strengths, making it a shopping destination.

“To add in another small supermarket would ruin the character of the area, to say nothing of the impact on the Williamson’s business itself.”

Sainsbury’s say they don’t have any confirmed plans for Fulwood Road, although they may be interested in opening a small shop should the right site become available.