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Sports pitch closure date paves the way for Sheffield University's £45 million scheme

The University of Sheffield's proposed new faculty of social sciences department, to be built on sports pitches off Northumberland Road, opposite Weston Park hospital. Photo: HLM/University of Sheffield
The University of Sheffield's proposed new faculty of social sciences department, to be built on sports pitches off Northumberland Road, opposite Weston Park hospital. Photo: HLM/University of Sheffield

Sports pitches at Sheffield University are to close this summer to make way for a new £45 million social sciences building - suggesting the project has gained momentum again after a delay.

The upper level pitches at the Goodwin Sports Centre on Northumberland Road, Broomhill, will close for business on July 29. The area, earmarked as the site of a development for the university's biggest faculty, will then be handed over to construction firm Kier ready to start work.

The University of Sheffield's proposed new faculty of social sciences department, to be built on sports pitches off Northumberland Road, opposite Weston Park hospital. Photo: HLM/University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield's proposed new faculty of social sciences department, to be built on sports pitches off Northumberland Road, opposite Weston Park hospital. Photo: HLM/University of Sheffield

In January it emerged the university had paused major projects amid a spending review designed to manage costs and boost income as the higher education sector faces uncertainty. The social sciences scheme had been expected to start at the beginning of this year.

Some initiatives - such as the £10m 'Heartspace' atrium at the Mappin Building, and providing new all-weather pitches at Norton - have been going ahead as planned, while an application is being considered by the council to build a large power generator on Bolsover Street near the Arts Tower. But the Henderson's Relish pub - an idea drawn up after the university bought the condiment manufacturer's former factory on Leavygreave Road - was put on hold, with a promise from bosses to keep the site in a good condition until a decision was made to proceed.

The four-storey social sciences development was granted permission by the council last summer. It will offer learning space for 13 departments, from politics to architecture, catering for 9,000 students.

In an update to users of the Goodwin centre, bookings and events manager Scott Tyler said the university's Sport Sheffield division had 'now been given a date for the start of development work'.

"The pitches will now close after business on Sunday, July 29. After this date we will no longer be able to offer bookings on the upper site at Goodwin and this area will then be handed over to Kier for the start of their work in building a new social sciences facility."

Bookings could relocate to the lower pitches, while the Norton pitches open in July. "I appreciate this information and closure dates have been passed on before and then delays have occurred, but it seems like the university is now in a position to move forward with the project and the date has been confirmed," Scott said.

A new sports venue will eventually replace the existing Goodwin centre, once the social sciences development is complete.

At a meeting late last year the university's executive board discussed deferring some projects 'by one year to keep within affordable limits'. "All forthcoming capital business cases would be viewed from the lens of prioritising expenditure on student-facing activities and/or projects which generate significant positive returns," a report said.

The Government launched a review of post-18 education, including the cost of tuition fees, in February. A new regulator - the Office for Students - is also charged with ensuring value for money.

The university has been approached for comment. In January a spokesman said: "Following an adjustment of timescales, we expect construction of our new world-class social sciences facility to begin in the next academic year. Significant progress continues on other areas of campus development."