THE prospect of an IKEA store in the east end of Sheffield will be welcomed by local shoppers who currently drive to Leeds, Nottingham or Manchester for their Swedish home furnishings experience.
The company has been looking at Sheffield for ten years and, at one time, it looked as though the site of the former YEB depot off the Parkway could fit the bill.
But the application was withdrawn because of the complications in improving the capacity of junction 33 on the M1 so that it could take the extra traffic.
Highway implications will be high on the list when the council assesses the proposed site off Sheffield Road, next to Meadowhall Retail Park, but this time it will be the impact on Junction 34.
The Government’s Highways Agency will want to ensure that traffic does not build up on the motorway, while the council’s concern will be congestion on the surrounding roads. Existing worries about the high levels of traffic and air pollution, especially around Tinsley, will be taken into account.
IKEA’s submission of the technical details about the traffic implications will be scrutinised closely. For the moment, the home furnishings chain points out that a proposed Sheffield-Rotherham link road under the Tinsley viaduct has always been designed to ease the pressure on Junction 34.
(Funding has not yet been secured, but there are high hopes it will come from central government and Europe.)
Meanwhile, the potential Sheffield Road location is being highlighted for its convenience for buses and Supertram, although motorists are catered for in the form of 1,000 parking spaces.
The other key issue in the assessment of IKEA’s ambitions is the effect on trade and investor confidence in the city centre.
Already the council has raised some hackles by rejecting plans for a Next Home and Garden store on the opposite side of the road, nearer Meadowhall, essentially because it wants to protect the city centre, especially at a time when it believes it is edging towards a long-awaited deal with developer Hammerson over the Sevenstone retail quarter.
Another company, Scottish Widows Investment Property, which is behind the scheme for The Moor markets and the redevelopment of other parts of the precinct, also objected to the proposed out-of-town competition when it had committed itself to the city centre.
Now the council is being asked to approve a much bigger store in the east end.
IKEA insists that there would be no threat to the city centre, maintaining that its store would complement the city centre and help to build Sheffield’s retail reputation in the face of ever-growing competition from other cities.
But would the goods on sale at the Sheffield IKEA jeopardise business at department stores such as John Lewis, Atkinson’s and Debenhams, the council will ask.
Again, it’s all in the detail. A retail impact report is awaited.