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Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

Place Partnering Diagnostic Visit Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter 5-6 December 2013


Academy Diagnostic Visit

Contents 1. Background 4 2. Context 6 3. The Process 7 4. Diagnosis 8 5. Summary of recommendations 25 6. Appendices 29

The Academy of Urbanism is an autonomous, politically independent, cross-sector organisation formed in 2006 to expand urban discourse. The Academy brings together an active and diverse group of thinkers, decision-makers and practitioners involved in the social, cultural, economic, political and physical development of our villages, towns and cities. The Academy seeks to identify, learn from and promote best practice in urbanism. For more information please visit

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter


Sheffield’s Academy of Urbanism award-winning Peace Gardens 3

Academy Diagnostic Visit

1. Background 1.1.




1.5. 1.6.


The Academy’s Place Partnering programme offers places selected as finalists in the Academy’s Great Places awards the expertise and experience of Academicians to help them tackle obstacles to longer term and broader success. It is offered as a diagnostic service, to help, encourage and challenge the diverse interests that influence the success of places to recognise and tackle the issues and opportunities that are of greatest importance. (A copy of the prospectus for participating places is at Appendix 1.) The visit to Sheffield was organised and sponsored by Sheffield City Council with active participation by a diverse group of interests. It was organised at short notice and over a period of only one month, in order to contribute to the revised master planning process for the City’s ‘New Retail Quarter’. The urgency was brought about by the withdrawal of the City Council’s principal development partner, and the need expressed by other parties, to maintain and refresh the momentum on this development initiative which has been in preparation for over a decade. Following initial discussions between the Academy and the Council, the masterplanning programme has been extended by six months to allow the diagnostic process to inform the refinement of the master plan, and to allow proper consideration among interested parties of the priorities for attention that it offers. The primary purpose of the exercise was to help those interested in the development of the New Retail Quarter, and the City centre as a whole articulate and compare their various perspectives, and to establish a shared baseline understanding of what the new development should achieve. This will help to guide the energies of the various participants in the future, and provide a reference point from which to resolve disagreements and uncertainties that may arise as the masterplanning and development processes proceed. The brief for the visit and the breadth of participation was co-ordinated in advance of the visit by Simon Ogden, Head of City Regeneration, and Steven Bee, Director and Chairmandesignate of The Academy of Urbanism. A copy of the brief is included at Appendix 2 . The visit was held on 4th and 5th of December 2013. The Academy Panel comprised a chairman, a rapporteur, and three panel members. All gave their time free of charge. They met around 30 representatives from the City Council (officers and elected members), local property and business interests and community and professional bodies. Members of the masterplanning team led by BDP also participated. A full list of all those who participated is at Appendix 3, with the programme. The presentations from all those who participated, and questioning by the Panel, was in

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter




open session. In the interests of continuing open discussion, opinions and positions are not directly attributed, and this report reflects the tone and intention of what was said by all. The conversations between the Panel and those participating, and occasionally between participants were friendly and helpful. Panel members, over more than 12 hours intensive engagement with those involved, gained sufficient insight and understanding of the circumstances and context of the New Retail Quarter to offer the following diagnosis of the relationship between the various issues, perspectives and objectives, and the obstacles to long term success for Sheffield city centre. The immediate and subsequent response from participants was positive. All who expressed an opinion felt that the exercise had helped broaden and deepen mutual understanding, and had drawn attention to new issues that needed to be addressed, and new ways of doing so. The Panel circulated its draft report in the first week of January 2014. This elicited many helpful comments, questions and corrections from those who participated in the visit and these are reflected in this final report. The report also reflects a discussion of the draft report held with City Council representatives on 7 January and a further roundtable discussion with many of the original participants on 17 January 2014.


Academy Diagnostic Visit

2. Context 2.1.







Physical The attention of the Panel was focussed on the area identified and defined in the City Council’s Sheffield City Centre Masterplan (2013) as the New Retail Quarter. Presentations to the Panel set this in the wider context of the city centre as a whole, and to city-wide and regional context when relevant. Panel members had been selected on their breadth of relevant experience rather than familiarity with Sheffield. This is a deliberate approach of the Academy’s service, designed to ensure that it can provide a fresh perspective, unconstrained by existing local orthodoxy and established interests. The Panel had received background information, including the City Centre Master plan and other documents so had some advanced knowledge of the physical context. Following the first day’s session, and before that on the second day, the Panel had guided tours of the New Retail Quarter, The Moor, Division Street and Pinstone Street and the immediate area. Economic The economic performance of the city centre was at the heart of most of the presentations. The Panel heard explanations of the retail performance of the city centre in the context of the regional and national hierarchy, and its strengths and weaknesses. The relationship of retail spending and investment was related to other economic sectors – commerce, education, leisure, administration and culture – and participants outlined their aspirations and concerns for future growth and success. Participants offered varying perspectives on what the New Retail Quarter should provide, and in what form. The part played and to be played by the John Lewis store was given a lot of attention, as was the changing fortunes of the Moor area, Division Street and Pinstone Street. The changing demographic make-up of the city centre and Sheffield as a whole was recognised by most participants as having a significant impact on future investment. The increasing resident population of the city centre, especially students, and the potential for commercial, hotel and leisure development will influence economic activity and performance in future.

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

3. The Process 3.1.



The Panel received presentations on the first afternoon from the perspectives of the interests represented by those attending. Some were highly structured, technical and focused; others broad-brush, heartfelt, and personal. All helped the Panel to take bearings on the issues raised. They were able to test the accuracy of their emerging perspectives in conversation with individuals that evening, and with local representatives together again on the second day. The presentations were clustered to ensure a good representation of interests during the time available, and began with a scene-setting from Sheffield City Council. The number of participants gave the Panel a broad perspective on the issues. The time available meant that each participant had only a short time to present, which required them to concentrate on their position, their aspirations and their concerns in less than ten minutes. This not only focused minds, but also ensured a lively pace for what was a lengthy session. The Panel’s diagnosis does not directly follow the presentations of the participants. It draws common threads from the issues and ideas that emerged and suggests elements to be addressed or given greater attention.

The Moor


Academy Diagnostic Visit

4. Diagnosis 4.1. 4.1.1.



What is Sheffield for? It is not unusual for the greatest insights to come towards the end of the diagnostic process, as the questioning and analysis progresses and the discussion gains distance from initial positions. Comparisons between Sheffield and other cities in the sub-region and beyond led to a discussion of why the status of Sheffield does not match its size. Sheffield is England’s sixth largest city with a population of half a million, and a retail catchment of around 1.3 million. The fact that much of his catchment lives in North Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire rather than Yorkshire may be relevant. Discussion of Sheffield’s role and relative position in the wider physical and economic context proved difficult to define, or at least agree. It does not expect to have the supra-regional status of cities like Manchester, Leeds or Birmingham. It may have a status in the national hierarchy similar to that of core cities such as Nottingham, Liverpool or Newcastle, but the discussion didn’t articulate a profile or widely-perceived identity for Sheffield that these others might claim. Sheffield is known historically for its high quality steel industry. Although the Panel was told that steel production by tonnage and value is still similar to that of WWII, industry does not have a high profile in employment terms in the city and its importance is no longer self-evident The post-industrial roles that similar and larger cities have adopted and attracted are less evident in Sheffield. Sheffield has two nationally-important academic institutions, with growing international ambitions that will have to grow in an increasingly competitive higher education ‘market’. Sheffield City Council is committed and competent, and willing to pursue innovative city management despite current constraints on local authority spending. The presentations from a diverse range of interests suggested that the Sheffield community has a strong self-image. This may be based more on historic perceptions than its current status, and may not be shared much beyond its immediate catchment. The plans we discussed for raising the status of the city centre could be an opportunity to raise the public debate of Sheffield’s future role in the regional and wider context. Sheffield is rightly proud of its cultural facilities and its great public buildings, but such assets are not unique to Sheffield. In recent years great public spaces have been created at Sheaf Square, The Peace Gardens and the Gold Route that connects them. The extent of this high-quality public realm is a distinctive asset, and reflects Sheffield’s historic reputation as a city of parks. Renewed commitment to extending this through the new development and beyond would strengthen city’s distinction. Recent improvements to the Moor are popular and successful, but not quite of a standard equivalent to Sheaf

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

Queuing for quality products in the Moor indoor market



Square, the Peace Gardens and Barker’s Pool. Just as important as status is leadership. The Panel asked who the champions of Sheffield were – The people or organisations waving the flag, making their mark and stirring public opinion. There is plenty of local enterprise and initiative, ambition and vision, but it is pretty quiet. This may be connected to the lack of a clear civic purpose, and shouting loudly about not very much would not be appropriate. The major new investment for the city centre in the New Retail Quarter (NRQ) may be an opportunity to attract major institutions to invest and even locate in Sheffield. The Panel sensed that there was latent enthusiasm and energy ready for a cause around which to rally. The NRQ may be that cause. It will have to be distinctively Sheffield’s development, and contribute to the economic and cultural diversity of the city centre. The strategic opportunity will be squandered if it results in just another shopping mall. Confident Council leadership of the NRQ project, based on sound reasoning and a strong vision, will be necessary if the masterplan aspirations are to be fulfilled in what may still be commercially hostile circumstances. The Council’s leadership will be more effective and robust if it has popular support and is championed by key players in the wider community.


Academy Diagnostic Visit

4.2. 4.2.1.



Commitment to innovation There is a history of innovation in Sheffield. Its industrial strength grew out of the development of high grade and specialist metal industries. The City Council pioneered UK investment in the new generation of tram systems, sport-led regeneration and district heating, with all the problems that being the pioneer brings, and has invested in replacing outmoded highway infrastructure with high quality buildings and spaces. This history of public enterprise and intervention is still evident today. It may have been dented by the imposition of Meadowhall (see later) and reduced government support, but the Council has been an active partner in the proposals for the NRQ for over a decade. The Council maintains that it is keen to adopt innovative approaches to city centre regeneration, which is encouraging, and will be essential in the light of the general consensus that the status and profile of the City should be raised. The Council’s now lead position in any future development partnership for the NRQ puts it in a special position. It will have effective control over a significant part of the city centre core. The potential of this has been recognised by BIS in making the initiative a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) pilot project. This adds to the Council’s capital assets 100% of the increase in Business Rates for 25 years – potentially around £50m – against which the Council may borrow to increase its financial capability. Diagnostic Panel site visit in the Creative Quarter

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter








The Council says that it will ring-fence this borrowing capacity for investment in the city centre. This commitment will be important, and the leadership role referred to in 4.1.5 (above) crucial. Other Sheffield stakeholders can help ensure that the political will is not diverted by other financial pressures. The relatively strong position of the Council should be used to attract development partners willing to engage in partnership. The criteria for their selection will be crucial, and should maximise the benefit of the Council’s position. The way in which the resources of future partners are pooled will have a major influence on the nature and pace of redevelopment and reuse. Since the first masterplan was commissioned for the NRQ, the nature of retailing has evolved and investment models and expectations have changed. Before adopting a preferred approach, the development partners should thoroughly explore models that have been adopted elsewhere to help choose the one that is most appropriate for Sheffield. A list of suggested sources is offered at the end of this report. There was an interesting tension during the Panel’s sessions between the imperatives of making rapid progress to ‘catch the wave’ of the next economic cycle, and of taking time to ensure that the maximum benefit for Sheffield is secured from the development opportunity. There was a similar tension between the desire to innovate and the obligation to minimise risk. Sheffield knows from its Supertram experience that these are difficult aspirations to reconcile. Broad agreement at this stage among the stakeholders and the wider community on the benefits and risks of innovation will help strengthen resolve and secure adherence to the best long term outcome. Promoting greater public awareness of the imperatives of commercial development and debate of the ways in which the commercial and other interests should be reconciled will help speed the subsequent passage of the preferred development proposal through the planning process. Flexibility cropped up as one of the essential characteristics of any new development. While it will be important for new and refurbished buildings, and the spaces around them to adapt over time to changing needs and expectations, investors will want as much certainty as possible in future financial performance. The plans and policies that will guide development should therefore be confident and robust in setting out what is expected. The consistency of the Council’s approach as planning authority and senior development partner will have an important influence on the success of the NRQ development as a part of the city centre offer, and the pace with which it is achieved. The Council’s aspirations and expectations must be agreed and adopted across all departments to ensure smooth progress and provide a robust response to any external challenge or dissent. This will of course be reduced if the Council can secure the support of external


Academy Diagnostic Visit

stakeholders to the preferred course of action from the outset. 4.3 4.3.1.




The sense of urgency The pace of the revised masterplan for the NRQ now in preparation is determined by a perception that the development has been delayed long enough, and that any further delay could be catastrophic. The previous development partnership with Hammerson would have provided Sheffield with a large proportion of the additional retail space that all seem to agree it lacks. There was a majority view among participants however, with which the Panel concurs, that the failure of the project as a consequence of the financial crisis has allowed the opportunity to secure a development that will serve the City better, in its physical layout, its relationship with the rest of the city centre and the potential to accommodate uses in addition to retail that will enrich the City’s offer and improve its competitiveness. Several participants quoted the Council’s Chief Executive as saying that he wanted this development to be: “the first of the new rather than the last of the old.” Many felt that the evolution of the masterplan for the previous scheme adopted

characteristics of the ‘old way’ of retail development. Original aspirations for new shopping streets gradually reverted to an inward-looking mall development with little connection to the surrounding area. Adopting a fast-track approach to the new plan could risk the same outcome unless firm performance criteria and standards are adopted and shape any development agreement. This does not mean avoiding rapid progress. There is a renewed vitality evident among the representatives that met the Academy Panel. Active participation in an open project development exercise will help to sustain this enthusiasm and engagement, and ensure

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter


4.4. 4.4.1.





that energy is directed in the same rather than opposing directions. This will ensure efficient use of human and financial resources, and minimise delay. A further period of drift could have serious consequences for Sheffield’s prospects of raising its status and profile. Such engagement is an opportunity to educate a wider community of interest in the imperatives associated with funding large scale development. The role of the Council as a public body will be open to some scrutiny anyway, but Councils involved in development have regularly thrown a cloak of secrecy over the process on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. There is no reason why the economics of the development shouldn’t be open to greater public awareness and scrutiny. The details of financial relationships between some parties – notably landlord and tenant agreements – have to remain confidential, but explaining the how and why of negotiating the new development would be a good way of helping the wider community understand and buy-in to the preferred option. Public engagement The City Council can point to many public consultation exercises over the lifetime of the NRQ project, and built into the current masterplanning process. The Panel perceived however a tendency for this to follow negotiation with interested parties, so that by the time options were presented for public interrogation, the preferred option for the main interests had been resolved. If the Council’s priority is simply to validate the project, this can be done through the scrutiny of its Committees. If the aim is to secure community endorsement as whole, and foster a broader sense of ownership of the plan’s aspirations, then the development process needs to be open to wider scrutiny and suggestion. There was a clear appetite among the participants to influence the character of the future development. Embracing this, the masterplanning process could gain valuable additional input and support. Introducing more public involvement in the planning of the development may slow progress in the short term, but if it helps secure popular support this should reduce delay later as it will be easier to resist criticism and challenges that could prolong decisionmaking at critical stages in the planning process. The balance between a commitment to public engagement and the need for leadership (4.1.5 above) will be crucial. Public participation in progressive stages, guided by firm leadership on what may be realistically achieved will help achieve steady progress through the planning process. This will build confidence among development partners that the programme guiding implementation and completion is realistic and achievable. Public and media suspicion of the motives of the development partners can be reduced by adopting an open-book approach (4.3 above). Openness about developers’ profit


Academy Diagnostic Visit

and the surplus to be recycled by the Council into the city centre for public benefit will help win support. A better-informed public, less prone to knee-jerk responses to new proposals will also be more attractive to development partners and future investors. 4.5. 4.5.1.



Sheffield’s retail status The mismatch between Sheffield’s status as the country’s sixth biggest city but only 19th in the country’s retail hierarchy was seen by all as evidence that it was underperforming and that steps had to be taken to improve the retail offer, and reduce the leakage of Sheffield retail spending to other centres in the wider region. The NRQ masterplan is guided currently by a calculated demand for an additional 60k m2 of retail floorspace. There was some debate as to the veracity of this, and of whether it was essential that it all be met within the NRQ boundary. The Panel felt that spreading this quantum more widely could release capacity for other uses within the NRQ which would help to create a more distinctive and lively addition to the city centre. There was criticism from some participants of the impact of Meadowhall on the vitality of

New Retail Quarter showing Leah’s Yard and John Lewis

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter








the city centre, even though the out of town centre has been operating for 20 years and is now an established part of this wider regional retail offer. It is possible that together, the city centre and Meadowhall provide a greater amount of retail floorspace than the city centre could ever accommodate alone, and their combined offer puts Sheffield significantly higher up the national retail hierarchy. There were divergent opinions about the relationship between Meadowhall and the city centre. There was a general agreement that while there is some duplication of provision, they are sufficiently different to be marketed as such. Whether or not this suggests overall complementarity, the Panel concurred with those who felt that promoting combined trips to both centres would be unrealistic; they are geographically too far apart with too great an overlapping offer. Meadowhall, and Leeds, Nottingham and Manchester, are still seen by some participants as problems to be overcome, when they are actually just part of the economic context within which Sheffield city centre has to function. The ability of the city centre to prosper while competing with Meadowhall within the same retail catchment lies in improving the qualitative as well as quantitative city centre offer. Strengthening the top-end market offer and reinforcing the attractiveness of John Lewis was seen by some as part of the solution. Others emphasised the strengthening of the independent retail, leisure and entertainment sector. The Panel agreed not only that both were important, but that, as some participants had argued, they would reinforce each other. John Lewis will no doubt benefit from the increased attractiveness of Sheffield city centre to that sector of the population from which it draws most of its custom. Some participants suggested that the city centre has greater scope to adapt and develop than Meadowhall. The Panel felt that the retail economy of the city centre could in future be reinforced and supplemented by other development – mainly leisure, residential and commercial – bringing other forms of economic activity and increasing retail custom. Meadowhall has some potential for such development, but the potential for increasing rental value is likely to be greater in the city centre. The opportunity to strengthen the retail status for the city centre has proved elusive so far, and pursuing a retail-led solution risks attracting development partners only interested in a standard, mall-based development. This is unlikely to serve Sheffield’s broader and long term aspirations for its city centre. A fast-track solution, built around a flagship store is more likely to demand such an approach. Recent investment in the Moor area by Scottish Widows and the Council has lifted both its appearance and its performance. This suggests that further investment will achieve further benefits.


Academy Diagnostic Visit

4.6. 4.6.1.






John Lewis The importance of John Lewis (JL) to the future success of the city centre was frequently raised, and expanded upon during the walking tour of the centre. Although joining the John Lewis Partnership in the 1940s, the Cole Brothers branding had only been changed to John Lewis in 2002. The future of this store, long established at the heart of the city centre, is clearly a sensitive issue. John Lewis is understandably reluctant to be specific in public about their plans and some participants were fearful that if circumstances resulted in JL deciding to leave Sheffield, the status of the city centre as a retail centre would be irreversibly damaged. There is no doubt that the store is an asset for Sheffield city centre that some competing centres don’t have. It may strengthen Sheffield’s self-image, but the Panel queried whether this was recognised in the wider region. Some representatives pointed out that JL relies to a significant extent on customers travelling by car from the wealthy outlying settlements to the south and west of Sheffield, shopping in the store and then going home. However true this is, it is also the case that JL is diversifying its offer by expanding its ‘click and collect’ service at the store and introducing services – such as its spa – to broaden and extend the attraction of a visit to the store. John Lewis recognises the commercial benefits of a broader and stronger retail offer and ‘circuit’ in the city centre. The JL Partnership acknowledges the importance of long-term stewardship to create a distinctive city centre offer that market forces are unlikely to secure. It also recognises the benefits of increasing the scale and diversity of the independent retail and services sector in the city centre to the JL store’s future performance. It is confident of its own distinctive offer and its adaptation to changing ‘omni-channel’ retail practice to secure its long term competitiveness. It seems willing to use this to help Sheffield attract more higher-end local, national and international brands. This could be an important direction for the city centre generally in future. Increasing the mix of activities available in the city centre: personal services, entertainment, culture, leisure and so on will be one way in which the mixed use of the city centre may thrive in the face of rising internet shopping and big-box out of town retail parks. Addressing this medium to long term opportunity across the city centre as a whole might achieve a slower return than rapid growth in volume retail, but could prove a more sustainable economic position. It is also more likely to suit a demographic that will encourage the retention and expansion of John Lewis in the city centre. The location of the John Lewis store is also a sensitive matter. The importance of establishing a new store on a new site was presented with as much conviction as the benefits of adapting and expanding the existing store. The answer will have to come

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

The front of John Lewis on Barker’s Pool 17

Academy Diagnostic Visit


4.7. 4.7.1.




out of the masterplanning process and the new development partnership. The right decision will be arrived at more quickly if the issue is addressed openly. The interests and expectations of all parties, starting with John Lewis should be shared and resolved as early as possible. The location, scale and servicing of John Lewis will have a significant effect on the future layout of the New Retail Quarter. The cost of constructing a new store and its associated access and servicing will be a factor in determining the mix of retail and other uses that will be viable. Many interests were keen for the Panel to declare which option – expanding on the existing site or relocation – it felt would be the most appropriate. If all things were equal, the Panel felt on balance that expanding the store in its current position, using site of the car park, would suit the city centre best. We recognise however that JL’s trading preferences, the phasing of development and securing the necessary investment funds might require a different approach. Connections to and through The size and extent of the city centre is roughly what might be expected for a city of half a million, but it has gaps and discontinuities that interfere with its performance. The City Council’s City Centre Masterplan articulates its aspirations for improving the range and density of all kinds of activity. It identifies areas by their dominant existing or proposed use. It also identifies the routes that give access to and through the central area, and between these sub-areas. The connectivity that these routes provide will assist not just the performance of each sub-area, but the interaction between them, and ultimately their interdependence as part of a successful city centre. The success of the NRQ specifically will depend also on ease of access for pedestrians, service vehicles, public transport, and cars, possibly in that order. The priority adopted will affect the form of the development and the way it connects with the adjacent areas and the wider network. The revised masterplan will have to define discrete development blocks, but these should be ordered by the patterns of movement they will generate, and with which they will have to connect as helpfully as possible. The active involvement of the City Council in defining and bringing forward these parcels for development will help ensure that interest of the city centre as a whole remain paramount. Sheffield has had the confidence to remove some of the more intrusive elements of its inner ring road, with no apparent loss of connection. The Panel spent time walking the city centre and saw no significant congestion. In fact some streets were generally quiet, and some car parks under-occupied. While the northern part of the city centre was lively by comparison, this suggests that there could be scope for further modification of the

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

The new indoor market at the Moor






highway network, and reduction of capacity to increase space for development and public spaces without prejudicing traffic flow. The Panel considers the potential for significant changes to Charter Square and the sites around it to be a major opportunity to strengthen the physical and commercial relationship between the NRQ and the Moor. It may also add impetus to emerging aspirations to exploit the development potential of the area to the south of the Inner Ring Road, towards Ecclesall. Expansion and improvement of the retail offer in this part of the city centre must not be at the expense of the northern half of the city centre. The City Council is preparing plans for the Castle Gate area, following the transfer of the market, and these plans should be pursued in parallel. Improvements in links to the northern sector will minimise imbalance arising from transferring existing, rather than attracting new, retail operators. The main shopping spine, the Steel Route, provides a principal pedestrian route running north/south. This is crossed by the Gold Route, running from the Station and Sheffield Hallam University in the east to the Devonshire Quarter and University of Sheffield in the west. They cross close to the civic and cultural heart of the city, at the Peace Gardens, with the New Retail Quarter immediately to the south-west. The Council plans to enhance the public realm of these routes, and has already set a high standard with Sheaf Square, the Winter Gardens, the Peace Gardens and Barker’s Pool. The quality of the buildings and spaces of the New Retail Quarter will be crucial. The quality standard should be taken from the best of the historic and modern elements of the city centre, rather than the general standard. New development here should also encourage the intensification of the west side of


Academy Diagnostic Visit

The Citadel within the New Retail Quarter


Pinstone Street. This is at present one of the interruptions in the Steel Route, which could have greater impact on the area to the north as the NRQ and Moor become more active. The Moor area to the south of the New Retail Quarter is a part of the Steel Route. Improvements to the pedestrian street have been successful, but don’t quite reach the standard of the spaces referred to above. The new market building is distinctive and should be popular and successful. It echoes the design of the Winter Gardens with a greater emphasis on economy that is appropriate to its use. If Sheffield is to raise its status, the high standard of its best places will have to be maintained or surpassed.

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter




4.8. 4.8.1.



Scottish Widows, the principal landlord of the Moor, has aspirations to improve its offer and its economic performance. This will include redevelopment and refurbishment of buildings that make a significant contribution to the character of the city as the physical backdrop to the public routes. The standard of design should be equal to that required of the New Retail Quarter. The strong relationship between the City Council and Scottish Widows should inform the way it encourages and manages the expectations of new investors. The occupation of the office building at Moorfoot by the City Council will bring renewed activity to this end of the Steel Route, and possibly see the refurbishment of a conspicuous and neglected building. The proposed re-opening of the passageway beneath it will restore a key pedestrian route into the city centre. Major flows of any one transport mode may need to be segregated in some parts, but at lower levels of activity, mixing modes can add vitality and a sense of security to a space, especially at quiet times. Points of difference This phrase was used by a number of participants in the Panel’s sessions. It was used primarily in the context of Sheffield’s retail offer to emphasise the importance of, and ways in which, the distinctiveness of Sheffield’s shopping could be strengthened. There is a risk, if the traditional approach to retail development is taken that this will be reduced to architectural details, materials, objects of public art and the occasional event space. It might be applied better to the city centre as a whole, in answering the first question posed by this diagnosis. The central position of the Council, the exemplar public buildings and spaces and the professed local appetite for innovation should all energise the quest for Sheffield’s point of difference in the widest context. Just as the economic geography of the region was cited as a problem, so too was the topography of the city centre. The fall across the centre from north-west to south-east was seen by some as a constraint on rational planning and development. It is however a characteristic of the city centre to be exploited. The slope allows views out to the middle and far distance, which emphasise the setting of the city in a valley between steep hills. It offers split level access and the potential for grade-separation of different transport modes. While development plots may be terraced to provide large and level retail floor areas, the spaces between can use the topography to create exciting, distinctive public spaces. The quality of the Sheffield’s best buildings was cited at the first Panel session as a distinctive characteristic to be reinforced. This is not an easy time to promote great public buildings, and buildings like Howden House may be setting an unfortunate example of


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what the Council feels bound to accept. Good public buildings will however help set a standard to which other developers can be held, to the long term benefit of everyone. Political concerns that the electorate may consider better public buildings and spaces to be an expensive luxury can be mitigated by promoting public involvement in the debate and using its leadership to raise the public’s expectations of the quality of the city they may reasonably expect. In all healthy shopping centres there is a symbiotic relationship between national and international multiples and local independent outlets. The former provide the footfall that sustains the latter, and the latter provide the distinctiveness that draws the footfall to this rather than any shopping centre. The complaint in Sheffield is that the independents are being squeezed out by higher rents as larger operators colonise the areas made popular by the independents. But that is the nature of market forces, and rising rents are a sign of a healthy economy. The danger is that risk-averse landlords may prefer reliable big brands over emerging local businesses. Charter Square




The problem in Sheffield may be that the area best for start-ups is immediately adjacent to the prime area. Success by new enterprises in such locations will lead to higher rents. Established businesses attracted by the success of the area are seen as more reliable tenants by landlords forced to minimise risk by their lenders. Identifying alternative areas around the city centre where new enterprises might relocate would provide an alternative for businesses that might otherwise move out of the city centre or cease trading altogether. One use of the anticipated TIF income might be to provide rental guarantees or protected

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter



4.9. 4.9.1.




tenancies for growing local businesses. This becomes even more attractive for the local economy of these businesses that are producing and/or selling local products. Another constraint on the scaling up of local enterprises is the lack of intermediate scale properties, that will allow young businesses – shops, cafes, entertainment venues – to grow in steps that don’t incur unreasonable and unfundable risk. This could be built into the new development, or supported in the wider area through financial devices. Historic properties in the city centre, such as Leah’s Yard and the Citadel, less suited to large scale retail use, might provide such intermediate accommodation. The difference of the city centre from Meadowhall is recognised and acknowledged by all, and is now embedded in the retail economy of Sheffield and the sub-region. The two centres might join forces to resist mutually-threatening development in future, but they are no longer a threat to each other and peaceful co-existence could release energy to be directed elsewhere. Sheffield ‘UniverCity’ The Academy of Urbanism launched its UniverCities programme in Sheffield. The aim was to bring together the resources and aspirations of academic institutions with local and regional government, business interests and professional bodies. During the Panel sessions there was intelligence and analysis coming from all these sectors, but it did not seem to be actively shared or acted upon. This may be because Government structures have changed, local resources reduced and personalities moved on. The benefits of sharing and working together should be reviewed. Undergraduates can help equip local research capabilities while using their adoptive city as a learning resource. The different economic, social and political perspectives of the participants can stimulate local debate and activism. Greater involvement in the affairs of the City may encourage the best students to stay and build their careers in Sheffield, strengthening its self-image as well as its economy. The Urban Institute, recently established by University of Sheffield is welcome evidence that this potential is recognised. It is working with the City Council on improving understanding of population and economic trends and a wide programme of other projects focussed on the City Centre to inform Council policies. There is plenty of scope to expand this activity, and the Academy will be happy to offer links to other initiatives with which it is involved in the UK and Europe. Education is an increasingly international asset. Sheffield’s universities are already pursuing this market, but it will only be really successful if they can offer education in a City that offers a quality of environment that is globally competitive. In return, Sheffield will be able to raise its international profile and attract inward investment to strengthen and diversify its economy.


Academy Diagnostic Visit

Sheffield’s Academy of Urbanism award-winning Sheaf Square

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

5. Summary of recommendations 5.1. 5.1.1.



5.1.4. 5.1.5.

5.2. 5.2.1.

5.2.2. 5.2.3.


5.3. 5.3.1.



Sheffield Understand better the position of Sheffield city centre within the economic geography of the Midlands / Yorkshire / North West. Identify the distinctive characteristics of Sheffield and the city centre to be reinforced and exploited. Use public debate to strengthen local and wider awareness of these characteristics and encourage champions to promote them. Ensure that the quality of the public realm of the city centre is reinforced and extended. Identify the public, private and community leaders that will promote the vision for the City, and ensure consistency of aspiration and message across all sectors .

Innovation Ensure that the Council’s commitment to innovation in the procurement of the NRQ is not diluted. Take time to explore and evaluate other development models and potential partners. Be prepared to take risks, and explain to the community the nature and benefits of the risks to foster popular support. Acknowledge the variances in risks and returns for different aspects of the City Council’s intervention, and establish a consistent approach from the outset.

Urgency Don’t be rushed into a development partnership that will result in a scheme similar to that just abandoned. The success of the city centre will be measured over many economic cycles, not just the next one. Development partners should be sought that are willing to adopt a long term perspective on investment and return.


Academy Diagnostic Visit

5.4. 5.4.1. 5.4.2.

5.4.3. 5.4.4. 5.4.5.

5.5. 5.5.1.



5.6. 5.6.1.



5.7. 5.7.1. 5.7.2.


Engagement Don’t be frightened to encourage public debate. Establish a relationship between leadership and participation based on widely-accepted aspirations and expectations Minimise the amount of confidential negotiation. Encourage investors to work on an open-book basis. Explore greater opportunities for using media, including social media, to promote public interest and involvement.

Retail Stop worrying about the impact of Meadowhall and concentrate on exploiting the greater development potential of the city centre, for retail and other uses. The emerging success of recent investment by Scottish Widows in the Moor suggests that there is healthy demand. Further development must be of the highest standard. This is more important in the long term than early completion, which could be at the expense of good buildings, servicing and spaces.

John Lewis JL has the capacity to expand and to attract other higher-end and international brands, wherever it is located in the city centre. The cost of relocating JL and the commercial benefits should be evaluated in the context of the character and viability of the city centre as a whole. The JL ‘omni-channel’ business model offers a model for the centre as a whole, especially in providing services as well as goods.

Connections There is scope to manage further traffic flows into and through the city centre. Improving links between the different parts of the city centre, especially for pedestrians will increase interaction and interdependence, increasing the distinctiveness and viability of the city centre as a whole. The functional relationship between the NRQ and the Moor is very important and should inform co-operation between the principal landlords to maximise connection and consequent public and commercial benefits.

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

5.7.4. 5.7.5.

5.8. 5.8.1.




5.9. 5.9.1.

5.9.2. 5.9.3.



6. 6.1.


Connections to the northern sector of the city centre should not be neglected. Development opportunities at the junction of city centre sub-areas, such as Charter Square should be guided by their potential to improve connectivity and strengthen retail circuits. Points of difference The quality of Sheffield’s public realm is possibly its greatest asset, to be protected and extended. Distinctive elements such as the Winter Gardens offer examples that could be replicated along the main pedestrian routes and circuits. The topography of the city centre should be celebrated in new development and used to create distinctive public spaces. Where possible it may also allow grade-separation of servicing and pedestrian routes. Emerging enterprises that provide local products and character should be fostered and encouraged to grow at a sustainable pace and level of risk. Appropriate premises and funding sources/methods should be identified. Important historic buildings that cannot accommodate modern major stores could provide appropriate intermediate spaces for growing independents.

UniverCity There is scope for renewed co-operation between the Universities and business interests in the post-RDA era. The Urban Institute should be supported by all potential partners, especially the LEP. The student economy will have some impact on the city centre, more in terms of its character than its prosperity. The responsibility for a high standard of development is as strong for these institutions as any other. The future prosperity of the City and the city centre will depend to an extent on the retention of graduates, and on the image of the city they take with them as they return to their city/country of origin.

Learning from others Innovation and originality will be important for Sheffield’s future image, but much can be learned from the way others have tackled similar challenges. The Academy and its Academicians have knowledge of many similar initiatives, such as: Princesshay, Exeter – Land Securities retail development of new shopping streets integrated into historic street pattern, exploiting heritage assets


Academy Diagnostic Visit


6.1.3. 6.1.4.




6.1.8. 6.1.9.

Hafen City, Hamburg – public sector development corporation directing comprehensive redevelopment CityCo, Manchester – public private sector property management and marketing initiative Entre Deux, Maastricht – award-winning city centre niche retail development on site of failed 70s shopping centre Rue du Calvaire, Nantes – regeneration of failing city centre retail area attracting high-end multiples Regent Street, London – Crown Estate redevelopment and active management to transfer fading retail area into one of Europe’s most successful shopping streets. Liverpool One – Grosvenor’s Stirling Prize shortlisted development of large area of Liverpool city centre Stockport – local authority-led integrated town centre development prospectus Kulturhusen, Stockholm – regeneration of 60s retail area to create lively retail and cultural centre close to railway station.

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

Appendix 1

The AcAdemy of UrbAnism PLACE PARTnERInG DIAGnOSTIC vISITS An invitation to the Academy’s Urbanism Award Finalists The Academy of Urbanism The Academy is an active, not-for-profit membership organisation founded to expand our collective understanding of placemaking and to share best practice. The Academy brings together a leading group of thinkers, decision-makers and practitioners involved in the social, cultural, economic, political and physical development of our villages, towns and cities across Great Britain, Ireland and increasingly, international countries. We aim to advance the understanding and practice of urbanism by promoting a culture of scholarship through evidence-based enquiry, providing an inclusive dialogue across all disciplines, sharing knowledge with the community and our peers and nurturing, recognising and rewarding excellence in achievement. Securing Long Term Success Representatives of some of those places that have been nominated as Finalists in The Academy of Urbanism’s annual Awards for Great Places have expressed a desire for more advice and support to secure the long term success of their place, and/or expand their range of activity. The Academy is keen to respond, and is establishing a panel of Academicians from which a small group with appropriate and complementary experience will visit a place – neighbourhood, town, city quarter – to help local representatives establish a comprehensive and objective appreciation of what makes their place special. What we can offer The time, energy and money that you invest in your place’s future must not be wasted pursuing unrealistic or unsustainable goals. We can help you build confidence and engagement throughout the local community, and the best chance of support for and success of your vision. The Academy’s panel will engage with key local people to stimulate and challenge ideas. It will produce a diagnostic report of your place’s strengths and any immediate and wider threats to sustaining them. It will present its suggestions to you and the local community to answer questions and stimulate further debate.

We expect our input to be the start of something, not the end. The Panel will not tell you what you should do. Their intensive input will help you ensure that your vision, aspirations and plans for the future are sound, and that you are aware of the internal and external pressures that might compromise them. Their insight will give you confidence that you are making the most of your human and environmental assets. The Agreement Once a commission has been accepted, the Academy will offer an initial consultation with the lead Academician appointed to curate your project; to define the brief, establish expectations, and agree outputs. You will appoint a lead representative to liaise and co-ordinate with the lead Academician. Up to three days of each panel member’s time will be offered free of charge. You will cover visiting Academicians’ travel, accommodation and subsistence costs and make a contribution to the Academy’s costs, all of which is likely to total between £2,500 - £3,500. Further help may be possible by negotiation and agreement with the Academy. You will provide adequate preparatory information in advance, additional information as reasonably requested, and access to key partners and local representatives. Advice will be offered by the Academy in good faith, but neither the Academy nor you are bound by the advice, and you will accept full responsibility for acting on the advice offered. Participating places will be helped to partner with the Academy’s growing network of Great Places directly, and through Academy events and other initiatives. Register your Interest Please register your interest in the programme by contacting Stephen Gallagher by emailing or by phone on +44 (0)20 7351 8777. The Academy of Urbanism 70 Cowcross Street London EC1M 6EJ


Academy Diagnostic Visit

Appendix 2: The Sheffield Brief Diagnostic Visit Sheffield New Retail Quarter 5-6 December 2013 Scope Sheffield City Council has commissioned a new masterplan for the New Retail Quarter. Economic and other circumstances are different from those that pertained when the previous plans were prepared and this is an opportunity to ensure that plans and participants are tuned better to the present context and what may be expected for the future. The primary objective for the Council is to secure delivery of a ‘Large Scale High Quality Retail-led Mixed Use Regeneration Scheme in the City Centre’. To assist this, The Academy of Urbanism Panel will draw out from all interested parties opinions on the appropriate mix of uses, relative scale, the relationship of development to context and redevelopment to reuse. Method Uncertainty can be reduced by rigorous challenge of the perceptions, aspirations and expectations of the various stakeholders on whom future success of the new development, and its role in the city centre, will depend. Such rigour can be difficult to achieve if the exercise is undertaken by the participants. Each will have perceptions influenced by their particular interests, and relationships between them may lead to suppression of issues, or adoption of compromises that may ease the process of resolving the plan, but could build in weaknesses that only become apparent later, during its implementation. The Academy of Urbanism offers an independent panel of experienced Academicians with professional and other experience relevant to the challenges faced by the redevelopment of the NRQ. Their independent perspective will be reinforced by their participation on a pro bono basis. The Diagnostic Service Prospectus, attached, explains the context of the service we offer. This facilitates open questioning and challenge, and presentation of the circumstances as the Panel sees them from an external perspective, with no influence from or protection of internal interests. The Academy of Urbanism’s diagnostic service follows the rigorous approach of ‘action learning’, well-established in personal development. It is proving just as valuable in discerning the opportunities and obstacles to successful urban development and management. The greatest value of the Academy’s service is its independence, so although our commission has come from the City Council, we are responsible to all those who participate. The sessions will be chaired by an Academician and our diagnosis will be a public document. Day One presentations 1.30-6.00pm Presentations by participants should focus on the New Retail Quarter as identified in the City Council’s City Centre Master Plan, and its immediate surroundings. Functional relationships with other parts of the city may also be relevant. Panel members will have read the advance information provided. Participants will be invited, in turn, to express and explain their aspirations for the new development, in open session with other participants. They will answer questions from the Panel intended to draw out the essence of the various perspectives, and to test the rigour with which they have been generated. At this stage there is no guidance offered – the aim is to establish as much shared awareness of aspirations as possible. It is important that participants are able to speak authoritatively and candidly on behalf of the stakeholder they represent. Generally, the more senior the representative the better. Each stakeholder in turn will be invited to present their aspirations for what the development should achieve, their perception of constraints and opportunities, and their concerns for what might confound a successful outcome.

Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

The amount of time for each will depend to some extent on the number who can attend, but around 20 minutes will help to ensure focus. At the end of the session, an accompanied visit around the site for the Panel will help fix the issues raised where they have a specific locational dimension. Evening reception The evening dinner is an opportunity for the Panel and participants to develop their understanding of the issues raised in the afternoon in an informal setting with those participants able to join them. Day 2 Initial diagnosis 9.00–1.00pm The second day begins with an accompanied tour for the Panel of the wider area – getting a better feel for how the NRQ area fits into the wider city centre context. How far this extends we leave to local representatives, but it should not take more than an hour. The Panel then reconvenes at 10.00am, with as many as the first day’s participants as possible (we appreciate this is not always easy). The Panel may begin with a few more questions to clarify perceptions gathered so far. The Panel members will then reflect on what they have learned, comparing perceptions, and attempting to reach a consensus on the main challenges and opportunities; the priorities for action and allocation of responsibilities. The representatives should listen but not engage, unless invited. When the Panel has arrived at a preliminary diagnosis, the participants are invited to respond to what they have heard, correct any factual errors or obvious misunderstandings. They may offer alternative opinions and conclusions, but the Panel reserves the right to determine its own diagnosis. The session will end at 1.00pm, unless it comes to a natural conclusion earlier. The Panel will usually stay for lunch if invited and then depart to consider its findings. Preparation of diagnostic report Around two weeks after the visit, the Panel will provide a draft diagnostic report. This will be circulated to all participants for comment. Comments received will be considered, and if appropriate, the report corrected and revised. The final report will then be sent to all participants. The report can be made public by anyone involved, including the Academy, which will place it on its website. A member of the Panel will be available to present the findings in person and answer questions/challenges if that is required. The Academy will consider any request for further input to this stage of the development process. New Retail Quarter Diagnostic Visit Examples of Issues to be covered The City Council has suggested the following as matters that might be addressed during the presentations and discussions: • Strengthening the city centre’s economic and social importance (improving its league position) taking digital communications and trading into account; • Determining the appropriate size and scale of a new scheme taking into account physical context and commercial viability; • Creating a distinctive destination with a ‘Point of Difference,’ from Meadow Hall and other destinations; • Respecting the existing urban grain of the city, ensuring continuity, permeability and ‘legibility’ of the new quarter; • Building in flexibility and adaptability to anticipate future changes; • Achieving good connections and linkages to the surrounding areas and other City amenities; • Enabling the ‘City Gems’, to be unified, (new and old buildings and public spaces); • Resolving conflict between pedestrians and general / servicing / bus traffic.


Academy Diagnostic Visit

Appendix 3: Participants Invited (those not present in grey)

Andrew Reavley

Lunson Mitchnall

Ann Cadman

The Source

Brendan Moffatt


Cath Jackson

University of Sheffield

Claire McAvan

Debenhams (Sheffield)

Clem Constantine

Marks and Spencers

Cllr Jillian Creasey

Central Ward Councillor

Cllr Leigh Bramall

Cabinet Member for Business, Skills & Development

Dave Caulfield

Director - Regeneration & Development Services

David Rudlin

Academy of Urbanism

Elizabeth Motley

Sheffield Society of Architects

Felicity Hoy

Common People

Gordon Dabinett

Urban Institute

Gregory Fonseca


Helen Morris

Museums Sheffield

Ian Moorcroft

Ashcroft / Scottish Widows

Ian Wheeldon

Highways SCC

Cllr Isobel Bowler

Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport & Leisure

James Price

John Lewis Partnership

Jeremy Collins

John Lewis Partnership

John Henneberry

Urban Institute

John Stonard

SCC Planning

Kane Yeardley

Forum / Independent Retailers

Karen Wanless


Kevin Walsh


Kim Streets

Museums and Galleries

Leigh Bramall

Cabinet Member for Business

Linda Cooley

Sheffield City Centre Residents Action Group

Marcus Kilby

Lunson Mitchenall

Martin McKervey

Sheffield City Region, Local Enterprise Partnership

Matthew Hayman

Development Officer - CRD

Michael Hurlow

Academy of Urbanism

Michele Grant

Academy of Urbanism

Miles Price

British Land

Nalin Seneviratne


Nick Atkinson

City Centre Retail Group

Nigel Cunis


Paul Bedfield

Sheffield Civic Trust

Paul Lancaster

Rees Denton

Peter Coleman


Sheffield City Centre and New Retail Quarter

Peter Gait

Principal Planning Officer - FAP

Peter Sephton

Sheffield City Centre Residents Action Group

Philip Booth

Conservation Advisory Group

Philip Moore

Sheffield Society of Architects

Ranald Philips

Ashcroft / Scottish Widows

Richard Eyre

City Centre Management

Richard Holmes

Sheffield City Council

Rob Thompson

Principal Planning Officer - Urban Designer

Robert Lane

LEP Retail Group

Ron Rees

NRQ Project Director

Simon Green

Executive Director - Place

Simon Kidd

Project Director, New Retail Quarter

Simon Nevill


Simon Ogden

Head of City Regeneration

Sophia de Sousa

Academy of Urbanism

Stephen Marshall


Steven Bee

Academy of Urbanism

Terry Davenport


Tim Bottrill

Champer of Commerce / SPARC

Toby Hyam

C Kalin Space Management

Zac Tudor

Design SCC Marks and Spencers

Neil Orpwood

Sheffield Society of Architects

Cllr Mohammad Maroof

Central Ward Councillor

Cllr Robert Murphy

Central Ward Councillor


Academy Diagnostic Visit

The Academy of Urbanism 70 Cowcross Street London EC1M 6EJ United Kingdom For more information please contact Linda Gledstone Director of Operations +44 (0) 20 7251 8777 Visit us online Follow us on Twitter The Academy of Urbanism @TheAoU Young Urbanists @AoUYU Join our LinkedIn, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube group pages by searching The Academy of Urbanism Images contributed by The Academy of Urbanism and Michele Grant AoU Geoblogs (Flickr) Incurable Hippie (Flickr) Saturns Stingray (Flickr)

AoU Diagnostic Visit to Sheffield New Retail Quarter  

The Academy of Urbanism report from the Sheffield New Retail Quarter diagnostic visit in December 2013.

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