The big read: "No better chance" to restart consultation on future of Castlegate in Sheffield as new petition launched
These pictures show how Castlegate came alive last weekend when crowds descended to enjoy bustling festival activities, a colourful markets and fascinating heritage tours.
The £5m Grey to Green scheme, which has transplanted stunning wildflowers on to formerly drab streets in the vicinity, also finally had its official unveiling ceremony.
It was the kind of scene that campaigners dream of seeing – a real life vision of how the area once described as ‘one of the most significant regeneration opportunities in the North’ could be transformed into a unique attraction for Sheffield city centre.
Now The Sheaf and Porters Rivers Trust have launched a new petition calling for a postponed public consultation on the future of the castle site to be restarted with the aim of bringing forward the area’s regeneration.
“I don’t think we will have a better chance than now”, said Simon Ogden, chairman of the Trust.
“We want to capture the momentum.”
Hundreds of people took part in Heritage Open Day tours around the Sheffield Castle site and a hidden rivers tour at the weekend.
Across the road at Victoria Quays, Sheffield Waterfront Festival brought in large crowds, and there was the first Pollen flower market held, as well as many other activities as part of the Castlegate Festival celebrating the characterful area with a 1,000 year history. The Canal and River Trust reported strong attendance and said Sheffield and Tinsley Canal was a 'hidden gem' in the city.
Simon added: “We had those tours advertised since July and we can tell how much interest there was by how quickly they were filling up.
"The response we got back from people on the day was ‘why isn’t this area moving forward faster?’ so we thought let’s build that into something a bit more formal.
"Castlegate is the link between Kelham Island and Victoria Quays – the council has been talking about it for years.”
The petition welcomes the council’s recent application for £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up fund to redevelop Castlegate and ‘unlock potential for future investment’, as well as supporting two new arts destinations close by.
But Simon said it was a ‘highly political fund' which meant the bid was not guaranteed to be successful.
Restarting a consultation could lead to bids to other funders, such as the Sheffield City Region, which as of this week is to be known as the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, or the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Of what people might say they want through the consultation, he added: “There is a sense that people want to see the rivers uncovered and have the story of the castle told and brought to life and then there are lots of more interesting questions such as should the rivers be for fish and wildlife, or more recreational functions such as kayaking, fishing, wild swimming or wakeboarding?”
While some will have visited the castle site for the first time last weekend, the area has long been at the heart of Sheffield, thanks to the former Castle Market that stood over the ruins. It was demolished in 2015.
Martin Gorman, chairman of the Friends of Sheffield Castle, said there had been lots of positive feedback from the tours.
He said: “A lot of people were saying they really like the idea of an open space and a park here and the castle ruin, they just didn’t want any more high rise flats.
"It’s definitely time to be focusing on this. It has been seven years since the market building went. These tours and what Pollen have done with the market is raising awareness that this area could be something really special. I think people can see the potential. If you build things there that are going to attract people then people will come. It’s like the Peace Gardens.
"People might come from outside the city.”
As previously reported, Coun Mazher Iqbal cancelled consultations over the future of the former Castle site and declaration of Castlegate as a conservation area. He is under investigation for alleged breaches of code of conduct including in relation to these cancellations, which he has ‘robustly denied’.
Nalin Seneviratne, director of city centre development for Sheffield Council said: “Castlegate Partnership Group are working with the University of Sheffield to run a series of workshops to review people’s aspirations for the Castlegate area. The Friends of Sheffield Castle and the Sheaf and Porter Rivers Trust are members of the Castlegate Partnership and are aware of this planned work.
“The workshops will aim to resolve how the heritage and archaeology of the area should be managed and discuss the methods for bringing forward development ahead of wider public consultation, given that there have been many consultation events about Castlegate.
"It is important that the stakeholder group through the Partnership work through the above issues, as without resolving these first, further consultations will be meaningless. The workshop sessions are being planned and are hoped to be run in November this year.
“The Council submitted a levelling up fund bid in June of this year for £15m to help to bring the site back into use.
"We are due to hear the outcome of the bid at the end of October 2021. If successful, that will provide the resources for dealing with the site, and following the workshops with the Castlegate Partnership, a further public consultation can be arranged. Anything beforehand would be premature.”
The petition calls for the consultation to be ‘rearranged at the earliest possible date to allow a full discussion of the options including the restoration of the river Sheaf and the interpretation of the castle remains.’
It can be signed here