The long and winding road to IKEA verdict

A council verdict on a proposed IKEA store for the east end of Sheffield has been delayed until next month at the earliest.

Details of the implications of such a large development, with 1,000 parking spaces, near M1 junction 34, are still being assessed by the council.

Two key issues are how surrounding roads would cope with the increase in traffic at peak times - and especially when Meadowhall is busy and there is an event at the Motorpoint Arena - and the risk of worsening air pollution in a part of Sheffield where levels already exceed European limits.

Provisional dates for a council decision have slipped a few times, but the stakes are so high that the authority wants to ensure it has scrutinised every element.

If it rejects the application, there is every chance of an appeal to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles (and there was a high profile council defeat when Next forced a public inquiry over its ambitions for a store near Meadowhall).

If it approves the application, critics have the option of a legal challenge, probably on traffic and air pollution grounds. Locally and nationally, there is growing concern over the effect of traffic fumes on health.

The length of time it is taking to assess the scheme indicates that the council is trying to find solutions.

Although the Government’s Highways Agency has dropped its holding opposition after initially raising concerns about the impact on motorway traffic, there is still the question of preventing snarl-up on other roads in the area. One answer could be a new road being built.

There is a political will to make the project happen in the light of the public response to the prospect of an IKEA on the doorstep instead of having to travel to Leeds or Nottingham. There is the estimate of 700 jobs, as well as an opportunity for the council ‘to show that it really is business friendly’.

Yet the private sector is providing many of the objections. John Lewis is worried about the effect on its Barkers Pool store, the developers of The Moor have concerns and the owners of Meadowhall are objecting on the basis that if an IKEA is built, it could result in their own new developments being rejected because the roads are full.