‘Weatherproof’ hope for centre

Fargate, Sheffield. Picture: Andrew Roe
Fargate, Sheffield. Picture: Andrew Roe

Weatherproofing key parts of Sheffield city centre to make it a year-round destination will be investigated in the first year of a £5m scheme to improve the area.

Planned measures for the debut year of the new Business Improvement District for the city centre - which launches in September after a successful balloT - were spelled out to city leaders on Tuesday.

Measures include introducing a new dedicated policing team for the city centre, reviewing parking, a coach park to encourage tourism and opening up shops or businesses’ toilets to the public in return for the BID covering costs.

More ambitious ideas that will be investigated include the possibility of making key areas, such as Fargate and Division Street, as well as the city centre, weatherproof so shoppers will not go elsewhere in bad weather.

Innovative transport methods - such as driverless cars, rickshaws, ponies and traps - will also be looked at and a city tour bus is another idea.

James Prince, managing director of John Lewis’ Sheffield branch and chairman of the BID’s shadow board, said the overall project was about bringing ‘pride’ back to the city centre.

He added: “It’s fair to say the city centre has got lost a little bit in the last 15 to 20 years, with Meadowhall opening, the new retail quarter.

“I think the city centre has become a place that people don’t have a positive view of - we want business owners, visitors and residents to feel a pride in this city and this city centre.”

On the idea of weatherproofing, he said:” I, like everyone else went down to the retail quarter consultation on Fargate and I overheard people talking about how really successful centres in city centres tend to be weatherproof and you only have to think of the recent Trinity scheme in Leeds and how popular that is.

“I’ve been retailing now for nearly 20 years and there is a common held belief in retail that when the sun is shining people shop in the city centre, when it’s raining people shop out of town with a roof over it.

“For me if we as a city centre want to be different and ensure customers can shop with us all year round, visit us and enjoy our public realm we’ve got to take some approach to weatherproofing.”

Any new retail quarter, Fargate down to The Moor and Division Street may benefit from such an approach, he added. Around 500 businesses with rates over £40,000 will pay a levy towards the BID, although it will represent 2,000 firms.

Interviews for a BID manager, a post worth £50,000 a year, are taking place this week.