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Agenda item

Central Area Strategy

Nalin Seneviratne (Director, City Centre Development) to report



The Committee received an update from Nalin Seneviratne (Director, City Centre Development) on the Central Area Strategy.




Also in attendance for this item was Councillor Abdul Khayum (Executive Advisor for City Futures, Development, Culture and Regeneration).




Members of the Committee raised questions, and the following responses were provided:-




·        Whilst the city was currently suffering from a lack of office workers in the city centre, as a result of staff not returning to work after lockdown, there was still a demand from businesses for quality office space due to the good transport links and wider offer the city centre provided for their staff.




·        Improving access to the city centre by public transport was a key aim for the Council, particularly with regard to sustainability and the green agenda.




·        The Council was working on options with regard to the repurposing of the John Lewis building, which would form part of the engagement through the City Centre Plan.  The future of the Debenhams building was not in the Council’s control, but officers were currently in discussion with the lease owners, although there were no plans as regards its future at the present time.




·        It was accepted that the timescale in terms of the completion of the City Centre Plan would include a three-week consultation, with the aim of delivering this in late November 2021, subject to approvals. However, it was recognised that this was challenging, and that the consultation may be delivered in early 2022 to enable overall delivery in line with the One Year Plan.




·        The Council had a Transport Strategy, part of which included the Transforming Cities Fund and Connecting Sheffield Strategy.  The City Centre Plan would make reference to the importance of connectivity and accessibility, and draw in the relevant elements of the Connecting Sheffield Strategy, as well as making reference to the wider Transport Strategy.  The Head of Strategic Transport and Infrastructure (Tom Finnegan-Smith) was responsible for the Strategic Transport Plan for the city centre.




·        The issues of accessibility, both into and out of, the city centre, needed to be addressed, and in terms of trying to encourage more people to live in the city centre, the various housing markets and demand from different demographic groups, and what incentivised them to live in the city centre, would be addressed in the Plan.  Increased density of living in the city centre represented one of the most sustainable ways of any city to operate




·        The Council was constantly trying to attract and support smaller, independent businesses in the city centre, as highlighted by the Heart of the City project.  One specific project was Leah’s Yard, where its success would be assessed not just through footfall figures, but also through social impact measures.  A further such scheme was the Cambridge Street Collective.




·        Plans for high-rise buildings in the city have not materialised, with planning permission having recently been granted for a high-rise development on the site of the former Primark store in Castlegate, but such development had not progressed.




·        It was accepted there was a need to activate public spaces in the city centre with temporary markets and other events on Fargate, using Future High Streets funding, and which would involve the provision of quality infrastructure in order to help activate this area.




·        There was a need to create neighbourhoods within the city centre, with suitable, quality amenities, including green and open spaces.




·        Arrangements would be made for a draft City Centre Plan to be circulated to Members of the Committee to enable them to have something to refer to when providing input to the Plan.




·        There needs to be something in the City Centre Plan which would enable the progress in economic activity in the city centre to be measured, as opposed to simply using footfall figures.  An example of such work had been undertaken on the Heart of the City project. The targets set out in the economic plan for that project were measured with some 4400 jobs secured to date out of a planned 7000 and economic activity delivered to date estimated at £0.97b out of a planned £3.15b to 2030.




·        The City Centre Plan was all about addressing short, medium and long-term issues in the city centre.  The short- term issues related to all the key sites, from Castlegate down to Moorfoot.  Underpinning these was the key issue with regard to connectivity and accessibility within, and to and from, the city centre.  The City Centre Development Team was fully engaged with the Council's Transport Team, and the current Transport Strategy and Connecting Sheffield Strategy were key to this work.




·        The query as to whether any special planning policies could be implemented to protect existing come up and encourage new, independent businesses in the city centre, would be referred to the Head of Planning.




·        The City Centre Plan covered everywhere within the Ring Road, as well as the Park Hill, Kelham Island and St Mary's Church areas.  Officers would welcome the opportunity of looking at water transport as part of the plan.




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)      notes the information now reported on the updates on the Central Area Strategy;




(b)      thanks Councillor Abdul Khayum and Nalin Seneviratne for attending the meeting and responding to the questions raised; and




(c)      requests that the Director, City Centre Development, submits a report on the next stage of the Central Area Strategy to a future meeting of the Committee for comment.