Sign retail quarter deal or move on, say business leaders

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

Business leaders in Sheffield are urging the council to tie up a deal for the long-delayed Sevenstone retail quarter - or to move on with another developer.

If London-based Hammerson is not prepared to commit immediately, the authority should look to another company to pull together the type of shops that the city centre needs to compete with other places, including Meadowhall, it is argued.

The comments from Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Council reflect further frustration over the failure to tie up a deal to transform the area between Barkers Pool, Pinstone Street and Moorhead, anchored by a new John Lewis store.

A breakthrough has still not been secured, despite the council warning that it is prepared to scrap the partnership with Hammerson and work with another developer.

Millions of pounds are on offer from a Government fund for infrastructure to try to tip the balance, and it is thought Hammerson continues to assess the financial risks against other projects in its portfolio.

City business leaders are stepping up the pressure, saying there is a “desperate need” for construction to start by the suggested 2015 date at the latest.

Pressure is coming in the Chamber’s response to the council’s draft masterplan for the city centre, which is currently subject to consultation. It says there is plenty of work to be done.

“Sheffield city centre has made tremendous progress in recent years, but is lagging behind other major UK locations with its retail offering and we would urge the council to show real ambition in delivering development in this area,” said David Child, who chairs the Chamber.

Business representatives say they support the council’s “scale of ambition” to develop a distinctive city centre to help compete with Meadowhall and the likes of Manchester and Leeds.

At the same time, they are making a number of suggestions to help the city centre economy.

And they are indicating that they want to see a both a thriving city centre and Lower Don Valley, making clear their support for a proposed IKEA and a large Next Home and Garden store near Meadowhall.

The aim, it is maintained, should be link such developments in the Lower Don Valley with efforts to attract people to the city centre.

A public inquiry into the council’s rejection of the Next scheme was held last week, and the verdict of the planning inspector is now awaited.