New bid to keep Sheffield’s Park Hill moving

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

COUNCIL action is due to be taken next week to try to ensure there is no hold-up in the delivery of some of the first apartments at Park Hill.

Already residents are moving into part of the first phase of the controversial redevelopment - and a financial package is being put together with a view to finishing another 185 flats and sprucing up the environment around the block. It would add to the 78 flats that have been marketed over the past year under the initial programme.

To avoid the risk of any delay, councillors are expected next Wednesday to give executive director Simon Green the power to negotiate new agreements, leases or other arrangements on behalf of the authority instead of issues being referred back for cabinet approval. “Any such delay could have significant financial consequences,” says a council report.

The grade II* listed flats are being refurbished at a cost of £160m, driven by developer Urban Splash in a deal with the Government, the council and the Great Places Housing Group.

Public funds - £40m - are coming from the Government, and councillors are not being asked next Wednesday to contribute to the financial package that is now designed to keep the ball rolling.

But opposition Liberal Democrats continue to lead the charge that the 1,000 high rise flats should have been demolished, and they fear the city could yet bear a heavy financial burden. Finance spokesman Coun Simon Clement-Jones said: “Liberal Democrats have maintained from the start this development would be a white elephant for the city and unfortunately it seems these dire predictions are coming true.

“It now appears Labour councillors are writing a blank cheque for this black hole and future decisions about this taxpayer-funded project will be made behind closed doors.”

The scheme, which offer apartments for sale and rent as well as commercial units, has been hit by the downturn in the property market. It was always intended that money raised from phase one would help finance future phases. Prices are being advertised at between £48,750 and £63,750.

Councillors are being told out of the first batch of 78 properties, “over 22” have been purchased or reserved.

The council report says: “The regeneration of the Park Hill estate is progressing satisfactorily and the council needs to be in a position to finalise the redevelopment of phase one.”