How Sheffield's balconies are blooming too amid the rise of apartment living

Sheffield's urban renaissance is transforming its heart into home. Now with 30,000 residents, the city centre and its immediate suburbs are fast becoming a vibrant, mixed-use environment.

Thursday, 11th August 2016, 08:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 16:28 pm
Nicola Mayer on her balcony in Broomhill

Apartments are being snapped up by home-makers and investors across the S1, S2, S3, S6, S10 and S11 postcode districts.

Kelham Island, the former cutlery district and home of the little mesters, is now a cutting edge address. Park Hill Flats are the height of cool again. St Paul’s City Lofts development adds prestige to the skyline and the Riverside development alongside the banks of the Don is finally thriving.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, city council cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, describes the city centre as ‘a great place to live.’

He adds: “City centre living was originally pioneered by student accommodation, but we’re now seeing more homes for young workers, older people and even families here and we are encouraging more residential development, which brings life back into areas where homes didn’t previously exist.”

Such developments are being enhanced by a design scheme led by Sheffield City Council and Sheffield University which will radically improve the corridor linking the Riverside Business District and Castlegate with the rest of the city centre and on to Kelham Island and Victoria Quays.

But could it be even greener?

Apartment living does not have to be garden-free living, says gardening specialist Neil Grant, who is backing a campaign to turn verandahs verdant.

Statistically, people who rent are the wariest of gardening, fearing they will not reap what they sow, he says.

“But even the smallest garden can enhance your life. Bringing green into your concrete jungle improves wellbeing, calmness and positivity,” claims Neil, who runs Ferndale garden centre at Coal Aston with wife Linda and sister-in-law Helen Watson.

“If your only patch of outdoor space is a few cubic metres suspended in mid-air, it can easily and cheaply be transformed into your allotment or little Eden.

“Salads, herbs, strawberries and tomatoes grow well on a sunny balcony. If you want blooms, go for annual bedding plants, then start afresh each spring,” he advises. “Colours can be co-ordinated with your interior design. Even on shady balconies you can grow evergreens and many flowers, such as violas.”

Neil believes fear of getting it wrong prevents balcony-owners from going green.

“Young professionals and students don’t know where to start and shy away from learning,” he says.

Cultivating a balcony isn’t difficult, though some knowledge is needed.

In countries such as Holland, apartment living is commonplace, and often planters are designed specially for balcony gardening.

“Verandahs have their own micro-climate. They can get very bright sunshine and extreme winds yet little rain,” he says.

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