Clegg: Sheffield should not be held to ransom

Fresh frustration surfaced this week over delays to the proposed Sevenstone retail quarter with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg saying the council should not allow the developers “to hold the city to ransom”.

The Chamber of Commerce agreed with Mr Clegg that it might be time to look for an alternative developer for the land between Pinstone Street, Barkers Pool and Moorhead.

The council believes it is edging towards a deal with London-based Hammerson, but it is against a background of widespread scepticism as far as many people in Sheffield are concerned.

“People who live here are becoming sick and tired of lame excuses,” said one online comment this week.

Another said: “I would think eight years is ample time to get your ducks in a row and start delivering. Hammerson have clearly failed. So we must move on.”

Many observers were critical of the council persevering with Hammerson while shops remain boarded up.

Mr Clegg said: “The city centre cannot forever be held to ransom by the indecision of Hammerson. I want them to make a commitment for the future of the city. I understand times are tough but construction work should be going on now so the new shops can be ready for when the economy improves in the future.”

Mr Clegg said the Government had provided the council with ‘significant’ help by allowing it to use £30m of future tax receipts towards funding Sevenstone. The council believes this will tip the balance, but it, too, has raised the option of working with another developer, even though it would generate more delays. One of the authority’s key ambitions is to ensure that John Lewis remains committed to a new store.

Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “Sevenstone is in danger of becoming a millstone around the city’s neck because it is taking too long to happen but the delay has given us a chance to assess other options. Is it now time to invite ideas and interest from other developers?”

Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development, said: “Bringing in an alternative developer could add further delays to Sevenstone because the new firm would then have to take time to work up its own variation on the plans.”