What does the future hold for The Moor and Fargate as the ongoing transformation of the city centre continues?

As the ongoing transformation of Sheffield city centre continues, we asked those in the know what the future holds for The Moor and Fargate.

Sunday, 1st September 2019, 12:41 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 1:04 pm

Coun Mazher Iqbal, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for business and investment

The world is changing rapidly – that means our city centre has to change too.

It means change for Fargate and The Moor. Through Heart of the City II, the Council is also delivering a key part of this change.

Richard Wright in Sheffield City Centre

Major retailers want more modern, flexible, bigger spaces in the larger cities. That’s why we’ve supported Aberdeen Standard Investments, the single owner of most of The Moor, to deliver the regeneration of the area.

Providing this type of new retail premises is helping to keep key retailers in the city and The Moor is now buzzing in a way not seen for decades.

Fargate is a historic street, with multiple owners of much smaller retail premises. Its historic role of providing space for most of the big brand retailers is changing.

That’s why we are relaxing the planning rules to allow a greater mix of retail, leisure, cafes and residential development. It’s also why we have applied for, and been shortlisted for, the government’s Future High Streets Fund to give us the cash to help property owners to adapt their premises for this more flexible future.

Peter Sephton, chairman of Changing Sheff.

The smaller units and historic backdrop to Fargate lend themselves to smaller, independent retail and cafes or restaurants, and there is significant scope for more residential apartments above ground floor.

We are confident it has an adapted, but very much bright, future despite some short-term change.

The Heart of the City II scheme, now very much under way, crucially sits between The Moor and Fargate. The council is delivering this element of our city centre regeneration after we acquired the buildings within its boundary.

We’ve adapted this project to be the engine of the city centre’s regeneration, delivering the offices, homes and hotels that add more jobs and people to the city centre during both day and night, helping all the shops, cafes, restaurants and bars across the city centre to thrive.

Phil Huby of Aberdeen Standard Investments

Alongside this, Heart of the City II is attracting new retailers not currently in the city, ensuring that the city centre offers a different, complementary experience to Meadowhall.

Peter Sephton, chairman of Changing Sheff

Fargate faces a massive challenge because shops are moving to The Moor as its popularity increases.

The council has been holding meetings with people involved in urban development to discuss the impact on streets between the Town Hall and the old markets.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, Shefield Council's cabinet member for business and investment.

Business rents on Fargate have traditionally been high, but these cannot continue without the national chain stores to support them, so new ways must be found to generate income.

For those of us who live in the city centre, the answer is simple; good quality living accommodation on upper floors to include larger units for professionals, retirees and families, who don’t disappear during student holidays.

Fortunately the private sector is showing the way forward. Although the appalling scaffolding along Chapel Walk has seriously damaged the economy, it shows that adding residential accommodation is the future.

Similarly converting the Telegraph building on High Street into housing confirms the residential attraction of this part of town. More than 20,000 people live in the city centre, growing to 30,000 within a decade, so the buildings above Fargate will make excellent places to live.

But the council has to persuade developers to stop filling the buildings with student bedsits and instead remodel the spaces into quality accommodation.

It is however ironic that the Council is scurrying to help Fargate’s commercial viability when its own actions have destroyed the economy at the east end of Glossop Road by imposing a 2017 traffic scheme that has forced people away.

Road changes that made Leavygreave Road past the old Jessops hospital into Sheffield University’s campus enforced an artificial bus-gate at Regent Street that has killed the Glossop Road economy.

Many shops have closed, businesses are suffering and drivers refuse to enter.

The bus-gate debacle is another tree-gate mistake and those of us dealing with our dictatorial council despair that it never listens to the needs of its residents.

If Marks and Spencer remains the Fargate anchor store and if street design brings the quality of the Peace Gardens, the residential accommodation above the street will attract supporting businesses below.

It’s a virtuous circle that will produce a relaxing Fargate plaza with fountains, restaurants, cafés and artisan outlets – if the Council doesn’t mess it up like Glossop Road.

Richard Wright, director of policy and representation at Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Sheffield is potentially in a unique position in this country. Our city centre is far from the finished article but this allows us to focus on creating a destination that people will want to come to, and live in, for many years.

Current investments and plans stretch from Kelham Island, Castlegate and Victoria Quays, up through the city centre and down to the digital quarter and Ecclesall Road. They are a mix of retail, business, residential, culture and leisure. We have the opportunity to create a vibrant, dynamic and future looking area that helps position our city amongst the best in the country.

Sheffield is already a great place to live and study – but it will get better.

The Moor and Fargate are pivotal and central to that offer. They are the main axes around which the whole plan revolves. They have good futures in front of them if we stick to our vision.

Of course, this is not all about wishful thinking and big visions. There will be hard nosed questions to ask about resilience and economic viability.

If people do not come to spend time here and spend money then this vision will fail, and with it the city centre. I don’t think that will happen because this is now a city that now looks forward, adapts when it has to, but remains committed to its overall objectives.

Gone are the days when all we did was moan about the demise of steel and coal. Our thinking and culture is driven by things like high tech, software, creative and wellbeing and whilst we continue to think that way the future of the whole city centre, not least The Moor and Fargate will be in good hands.

There is always a but – our vision will be so much harder to deliver if certain things don’t happen.

For example, if other cities get HS2 and we don’t then we will lose investments, job opportunities and economic potential which will have a devastating effect on our city centre.

If we don’t deliver on the economic potential of high tech manufacturing, creative and digital, and health and well being there will not be enough wealth around and that will limit the success of our city centre.

The city centre can be both a driver and a victim.

Phil Huby, head of retail Aberdeen Standard Investments

Sheffield city centre has so many great things going for it. The regeneration of The Moor illustrates that the city is bucking the trend in retail terms and has been able to attract and retain major high street names such as Primark, Next, New Look, River Island and H&M, and been able to bring Gap back, and to introduce Skechers to the city centre.

The city centre now has a stronger and healthier retail and leisure offer and is an environment that we have been able to adapt through refurbishment and sensitive rebuild to offer and meet modern requirements. This is why the city has been able to retain these high street names.

The future is positive as The Moor now records a footfall of over 13 ¼ million that is still growing, attracting visitors from outside the city too and with further capacity to renew and regenerate. The continuing improvements are drawing in more leisure as we have the imminent openings of bowling operator Lane7 and The Gym Group, in the coming weeks.

This success has to be good for the general economy of the city centre and for the other ongoing regeneration projects. We also know that The Moor has been a catalyst for other external investment such new residential, office and student development in the location, and of course we have the New Era development as neighbours.

The shift of the retail core away from Fargate presents a great opportunity for the city. All major city centres require a mix of attractions to enhance their utility and vibrancy. The characterful and historic buildings on Fargate are well suited in this regard.

There are many innovative ways that the existing buildings can be repurposed to provide hotels, conference facilities, etc. The city is heading in a very positive direction and I see Fargate having the potential to become a key asset in its continued success and to enhancing this city as a destination.