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Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public

Minutes:

4.1

The Committee received an electronic petition ‘Allow re-entry to Tramlines in Hillsborough Park’.  The petitioner was unable to attend the meeting and the Chair agreed to send a detailed response.

 

 

4.2

Matt Hill attended the Committee and asked the following question which was answered by the Chair:

Question: Our successful non-profit co-working space is currently full to capacity and looking to expand, alongside being located in an area which the Landlord is looking to convert into flats. Therefore, at Union St we're conscious of the plans for Events Central on Fargate to include two floors of co-working which are to be put to external tender.

 

Our previous tender to Sheffield City Council for Leah's Yard (bid here) outlined in detail our externally validated plans to create 2,500 jobs, attract 600,000 additional visits to the city centre, and create fifteen million pounds per year for Sheffield's economy. However, large contracts such as these are generally awarded to bigger operators, who are seen as a less risky proposition due to their size. However, they do not usually focus on their social or economic impact for Sheffield.

 

Would the committee agree that it's vital to ensure that opportunities for tendering such as these are accessible for local organisations, and would it commit to looking at the tender process for Events Central with a view to dividing it into smaller contracts, to be realistic and viable for local organisations to bid for?"

 

Answer: The Council would wish to encourage bids and proposals from local organisations in respect of Events Central.  The tender process will start in the summer and officers will contact you directly as soon as that process begins.  The project is funded by the Future High Streets Fund and as part of the successful bid for that funding there is a requirement to make sure we have a commercial return on the building’s upper floors and the proposed music venue, with a view to securing the ground and first floor exhibition and community spaces.  Subject to that, positive social and environmental impacts will be a key criteria in accessing the relevant bids. In addition it was suggested that the Strategy and Resources Policy Committee have regard to the point on breaking up procurement contracts as part a of a Community Wealth building approach.

 

 

4.3

The Committee received a question from Janine Lawson.  The questioner was unable to attend the meeting.

 

Question: Our question is about the Economic Recovery Fund and the ability of existing projects to apply for further funding. You may be aware that Hillsborough is an area that has already seen benefit from the fund. However there is much work still to be done and the existing funds will not cover the current plans. The area has been extended beyond original plans due to the significant decline in the area and the many years the area has been left behind. So how can this committee help Hillsborough, an area needing further resources and with the capacity to deliver, secure further funding to allow the project to continue to bring prosperity to its businesses and attract more of the local community into the area.

 

Answer: No decision has yet been made as to whether existing beneficiaries will be able to access further funding through the second iteration of the Economic Recovery Fund.  An options appraisal that would support the Committee in making this decision was recommended at the meeting on 20 June 2022.  The Committee will take a decision as to any future shape of the Fund at its September meeting and will therefore be able to communicate the outcome to you at that time.

 

The legacy of ERF round 1 and ongoing work of each project will be considered and continued support offered though the Local Area Committees. Two important strands of work are an evaluation of the Economic Recovery Fund and research into the future of the city’s district centres.  The Committee would invite all of those involved in the Hillsborough project to come forward and take part in these pieces of research to help record the learning from this project and take this forward, and generate the ideas and interventions the Council can work towards in future years.

 

The Committee would like to take the opportunity to thank you and all of those involved in the hard work of delivering your project, as well as those in all of the other areas.  We look forward to seeing the projects develop over the coming months. 

 

 

4.4

Ian Lawlor and Rose Wilcox attended the Committee and asked the following question which was answered by the Chair:

 

 

 

Question: In 10 months time The Leadmill is due to be evicted by it’s landlord who intends to stage a hostile takeover to operate their own corporate chain venue in its place, with no ties to Sheffield. This is a landlord who used underhand tactics to purchase the building, under the pretence of being a property portfolio company. Once the deal was done they then swapped ownership to another of their companies which operates music venues. This is just one of the sly tactics they used to hide their true intentions. They purchased the building exactly 5 years before The Leadmill’s lease ends which is the minimum length of time required for the right of renewal for a commercial tenant to not apply, so it was their intention from the very start to evict The Leadmill. Despite this 5 year plan of the landlords, they failed to inform The Leadmill of their intentions until their legal team cruelly served The Leadmill with an eviction notice in April, leaving only 1 year for The Leadmill to plan. The Leadmill has always been a tenant of the building they operate from, they’ve never had the opportunity to purchase the building at its true value but have never had any cause for concern as they have always paid their rent on time and are a model tenant, this eviction notice came as a real shock.

 

Despite false claims made in the past few months by the landlord, they have no rights to “The Leadmill” trademark or any of its heritage or assets, all of which belong wholly to The Leadmill company. Once The Leadmill are evicted, the building would be completely stripped of everything including all utilities such as water, gas & electricity, it would be stripped of it’s floor, the bars, stage, speakers and even the doors. What would be left would be a sad shell of a once-derelict empty old flour mill building. The work then required to return the building to a useable venue would be massive, expensive and incredibly lengthy. There would be no venue operating from the building for at least a year and it would no longer be The Leadmill if they did manage to get it reopened.

 

This will force redundancy on the extremely talented and dedicated workforce behind The Leadmill. It is these 80 people who make The Leadmill so special. We recently saw the landlord use the same tactics to take over the O2 Academy Newcastle and the Leadmill actually currently employs a member of staff who lost their job in that venue in Newcastle. They are now having to go through this horrible ordeal for a second time, because of the exact same landlords. The landlords have made no attempt to contact the staff, despite having this all planned for 5 years. This has caused immeasurable stress and anxiety amongst the 80-strong team, who were all still recovering from the stresses of the pandemic. Because of the downtime that would be necessary to turn their empty flour mill back into a music venue it would be impossible for the landlord to offer the team a full salary for at least a year whilst it’s not operating. The landlord would be forcing The Leadmill to make sweeping redundancies of it’s own dedicated and loyal staff. Any statements made by the landlord to the contrary would just be more lies.

 

Over the last 10 years alone, The Leadmill has employed over 900 people. They ranged from graduates from outside of the city, those who have lived in Sheffield for their entire life, apprentices, student placements and kickstarters who needed a helping hand back into work. The Leadmill has substantial relationships with both universities, offering invaluable work experience and apprenticeship opportunities to those interested in the industry. The Leadmill are one of the leading organisations harnessing talent within the arts and events industry in Sheffield. The majority of The Leadmill’s staff moved to or chose Sheffield as their University purely for the chance to work at and visit The Leadmill. Most of The Leadmill management team worked their way up from apprenticeship and placement level, nurtured by the business and allowed to grow with the company. It’s no coincidence that some Leadmill staff have been with the company happily for 15+ years, despite this usually being a high-turnover industry. The whole team of staff were looked after incredibly well throughout the pandemic by The Leadmill. A pandemic where the landlords were the only people to refuse The Leadmill any financial help when asked. They didn’t care about The Leadmill’s staff or it’s future then and they definitely don’t now.

 

It’s also a little known fact that The Leadmill isn’t just the venue on the ground level, it has 3 other floors housing 9 independent businesses that operate above the venue. Over the years these have ranged from Tramlines Headquarters, artists, clothing shops, makeup studios, recruitment firms, tattooists and dance studios. The landlord’s plans would not only displace The Leadmill and it’s staff, it would also result in the removal of these independent businesses, one of whom has even been there as long as The Leadmill has.

 

So I ask the committee members here today, what will you do to help prevent this avoidable mass redundancy, the loss of vital career & skills development opportunities, and the forced homelessness of local independent businesses?

 

The Leadmill, the birthplace of Sheffield’s Cultural Quarter, is set to be exterminated by its corporate London-based landlord. After 42 long, hard years of building The Leadmill into one of the most respected and influential music venues in the UK, this legacy is at risk. The landlords intend to evict The Leadmill and have not engaged in any kind of negotiations with the company or it’s staff, in fact they refuse to respond to even the most basic of questions. Unless Sheffield City Council intervenes, The Leadmill will cease to exist in March 2023 - just 10 months away.

 

Sheffield is considered one of the best breeding grounds for new music in the UK. The amount of widely successful artists that have been produced in this city is staggering. Music is a huge part of Sheffield’s cultural identity, an identity which The Leadmill has played an important role in cultivating. Over the last 42 years, The Leadmill has worked constantly with new musicians to nurture and develop their talent. The loss of The Leadmill will mean the loss of a powerful institution and cultural asset which has helped to put Sheffield on the map.

 

Sheffield will lose a company that cares deeply about this city and the people that live and work here. It will lose a company that works closely with the local community, supports local businesses, regularly donates to local charities, and nurtures and elevates the local music scene. Sheffield will lose a company that brings tens of thousands of people into the city each year. Sheffield will lose that feeling of pride when being compared to surrounding cities’ musical heritage.

 

The Leadmill recently organised the award-winning Sheffield Music Trails this May. This event brought much needed attention and income to 19 local independent venues, after suffering through a tough 2 years in the pandemic. It also lifted the city’s spirits, by creating a memorable and unique experience for the thousands of people in attendance.

 

The Leadmill was also a pivotal player during the early years of Tramlines Festival. In the beginning, it invested so generously in Tramlines, that it actually made a loss on its sold out events each year. The aim was to selflessly help raise the profile of the festival in its early years when money was tight because The Leadmill could see the bigger picture. Sheffield now has a festival to be proud of at Hillsborough Park, where The Leadmill is honoured to have its own stage. This stage celebrates The Leadmill’s role in the heritage of both Tramlines Festival, and the city of Sheffield. It’s a little known fact that for many years, Tramlines Headquarters also operated from one of the studios at The Leadmill. This is a real testament to the cultural breeding ground of the venue; great things start with The Leadmill.

 

In the 2016 UK Music ‘Wish You Were Here’ report, it was stated that people from outside of the city make up 26% of all customers that attend grassroots music venues and that they then contribute an average of £158 each to the local economy. In the past year alone, The Leadmill has had 160,000 customers through its doors. This would equate to £6.6 million that music tourists have contributed towards our local economy as a direct result of The Leadmill’s hard work.

 

Has the council considered that the closure of The Leadmill will paint a negative portrait of our city and has it considered what the cultural & financial impacts on both a local and national scale will be when Sheffield is seen as a place where grassroots businesses cannot thrive. How would the city cope with the loss of one of its most significant cultural landmarks.

 

So I ask the committee members here today, what is the council willing to do to prevent this travesty from happening, will this committee back a campaign to compulsory purchase the building so Sheffield can retain this crucial cultural asset?

 

Answer: Music is indeed a part of Sheffield’s cultural identity, and The Leadmill is without doubt a stalwart of Sheffield’s nightlife and culture scene and an iconic venue for musicians and music fans across the country. We understand how strongly people feel about the news of its potential closure; we echo their feelings and do not want to lose an important piece of our cultural heritage.  

 

We know that this will be an unsettling time for the hardworking staff of The Leadmill. Through Business Sheffield, there are support packages available to provide support to staff, if required.

 

We have been working closely with The Leadmill team for a number of months now, supporting their efforts to find suitable alternative venues and exploring all proposals. Compulsory Purchase Order Powers can only be used in limited circumstances. They are lengthy processes and must meet the strict criteria set out in Law.

 

We will continue to do all we can, within the powers we have, to support, guide and help The Leadmill to find a resolution.  A meeting has been arranged for next Thursday to discuss this matter. 

 

4.4

Question from Robin Hughes, referred from Council - What will this Council's strategic approach be to realising the full value of heritage in all its forms to the economy and skills? And how will this extend to maximise the benefits to climate change, education, health and wellbeing?

 

It was agreed that a written response would be provided.