City centre to come under the microscope

Crowds gather for the opening of the New Trinity Shopping Centre, Leeds..21st March 2013....Picture by Simon Hulme
Crowds gather for the opening of the New Trinity Shopping Centre, Leeds..21st March 2013....Picture by Simon Hulme

SHEFFIELD could be excused an inferiority complex as Trinity Leeds opened with its 100 shops, 20 restaurants, bars and cafes and cinema.

Sevenstone? The saga of Sheffield city centre’s proposed retail quarter remains unresolved, despite edging towards a deal with London developers Hammerson.

At least the Trinity launch indicated that retailers are prepared to invest in new shops when they have the confidence in the centre - and that shoppers are prepared to respond.

Leeds has always had the retail edge over Sheffield, partly because it has a largely more prosperous population.

Everything has not stopped in Sheffield though. Construction of the Moor markets continues with a view to a November opening. Other parts of The Moor are scheduled for new buildings and new retailers.

Plans to refurbish the old Fitzalan Square post office as a college for overseas students are being welcomed for bringing new life to derelict listed building.

The former TJ Hughes department store in High Street will have new occupants soon.

Yet so much depends on Sevenstone to carve a new retail heart between Barkers Pool, Moorfoot and Pinstone Street.

The long-term future of Sheffield city centre will come under the microscope next month when a review and public consultation are launched.

It will be the first time in five years that a reassessment has taken place, as the council prepares an updated masterplan to help guide development.

Already it is becoming clear that the shape of the city centre is changing.

The relocation of the markets to The Moor will shift the retail centre of gravity and open up a range of options for Castlegate.

“Over time we’ll see retail being concentrated more around the area from High Street through to The Moor,” said the council’s head of city regeneration, Simon Ogden. “Castlegate will change, but I don’t think we’ll see retail retreating from Castle Square. It’s good that TJ Hughes is being reoccupied.”

The markets building is scheduled for demolition, although what will go in its place has yet to be decided. One of the first jobs will be to carry out an archaeological survey to assess what remains of Sheffield Castle, and that will determine the extent of new development.

Recent thinking has focused on commercial and residential rather than shops.

The new offices that have sprung up near the Wicker and the River Don could form a template, while plans for houses - not apartments - in Kelham Island open up a new line of inquiry.

The council sees Castlegate as the key to integrating Victoria Quays (the old canal basin) and the castle remains into the city centre.

The masterplan will outline priorities.

“How the details play out is open to discussion,” said Mr Ogden. “We want to get a wide range of views.”