From 1989 to Sevenstone

Sheffield, 1989. The Killing of 94 football fans at Hillsbrough makes international headlines as the  grand old lady of Sheffield Victoria Station is demolished and another part of Sheffield’s heritage gone. Disused buildings loom over the city like skeletons of an industrial empire while the underclass struggle to find work after the industry nears demise.

Over in Attercliffe, a young Berris Connolly, a photographer and friend adds this thought:

“Sheffield, like all northern cites they’re all competing for new things to replace the old industrial and I feel that Sheffield will lose it uniqueness and become like other cities”

This being said as he watched and took images of the giant industrial buildings being demolished to make way for Medowhell, and the 2 years on The World Student Games comes to town, at that time  Meadowhell had been open a year.

2009, the debt for the games and repayment from us the public adds up to £23.2m, in fact it will be another 14 years before this is paid off with the debt rising by 2% each year or in other words £450,000, the privatisation by the back door of public housing Hyde Park flats built in the 1960s regeneration boom is still a debt we are paying, the same for the now demolished Kelvin Flats.

Sevenstone is the marketing name of the project formerly known as the New Retail Quarter/NRQ which involves the demolition and rebuilding of an area of Sheffield, between the Devonshire Quarter and The Moor Gateway. Sheffield City Centre has suffered from the collapse of steel making and then the opening of the Meadowhell shopping centre. The idea of the NRQ is to promote Sheffield as a regional retail destination and rival other centres including Leeds, Manchester and even London. It will be Located to the west of Pinstone Street, between Barkers Pool and Moorhead, the New Retail Quarter will cover a 20-acre site in the heart of Sheffield and will involve a major re-design of this part of the city.

The NRQ covers the relocation of John Lewis, use of the old store as a two-tiered shopping mall with covered streets and the pedestrianisation of the centre and Charter Row, whilst creating Charter Square. The development also covers improvement of the infrastructure, new shops, apartments and a multi-storey car park. The project will require demolition of several buildings such as the Grosvenor House Hotel, but will also preserve some listed buildings in the vicinity.
The £600m New Retail Quarter will create a shopping and leisure environment in the heart of the city with a mixture of uses. 860,000sqft (80,000m2) of retail space will be created, including a 269,000sqft (25,000m2) John Lewis department store, designed by architects O’Donnell + Tuomey, a new 100,000sqft (9,300m2) Next store, the remainder being around 100 new shops. In addition, up to 200 residential flats, a health club and leisure facilities, and a ten-storey car park with 1,696 spaces will be provided.
Burgess Street will be realigned by redirecting it down towards the bottom of Barkers Pool as oppose to its current position parallel with Cambridge Street. The new street will be provisionally named New Burgess Street. For this and other new parts of the city, architects from around the world will design a number of new buildings. The intended start on site in 2010 will include the demolition of the Wellington Street fire station. The first retail buildings, including the new John Lewis store are due for completion in 2011.
As protesters who are urging Sheffield Council to delay demolition of the city’s old fire service headquarters – and have set up a group on a social networking website attracting more than 130 supporters. The council is spending £600,000 of Government money knocking down the red-brick building, on Wellington Street, as part of preparatory work for the new Sevenstone retail quarter.

But developer Hammerson has put construction of the project on hold due to the recession – although it is pushing ahead for planning permission for the different sections of the scheme. Opponents of the demolition due to take place next month (November 2009) are unhappy it will lead to another area of empty land in the city centre. Protester Rupert Wood, who runs Archipelago Art Gallery, has set up Facebook group Stop the Demolition of Sheffield Old Fire Station – which now has 135 members.

He said: “It’s a big mistake – ruinous – and will blight the city centre even more than it is at present. Sevenstone may not even happen. We want the council to pause this scheme to allow a bit more discussion, a wider public debate which would also involve the development of a Plan B, to cover what happens if the developers prove unable or unwilling to proceed.

“There is too much uncertainty about the outcome of the Sevenstone project, already on hold until 2011, for the city council to be spending £1m right now on this demolition.” The group is supported by Green Party Central Ward councillor Jillian Creasey, who has called for the fire station building to be re-used.

She said: “The council is wasting resources and taking a big risk by demolishing the empty fire station. There is a possibility that Hammerson won’t proceed with the New Retail Quarter and this site might not be needed.

“In which case, there will be another derelict site, when it could have been converted for other uses, for instance workshops, a market, meeting and performance spaces.”

Funding for the demolition cannot be used for any other purpose, the council said. It plans to use the site as an additional car park until Sevenstone goes ahead.

Coun Colin Ross, Sheffield Council cabinet member for employment, enterprise and development, said: “Bringing down the old fire station on Wellington Street is an important part of the Sevenstone project.

“The fact that the building is being demolished marks the continued progress in getting the site and plans ready ahead of the economic upturn.

“It is vital that the building comes down before the end of the financial year so that we can access external funding to carry out the work. We are moving forward to get everything in place to deliver this £600m retail scheme to the city.” The second phase is due for a 2013 completion.
Work has already been done off-site. Enabling works (that is, providing the gas, water, electrical and telephone infrastructure) began in March 2006 on the roads surrounding the new site, including Division Street, Moore Street, Charter Row and others.
On the 12 October 2007, developers Hammerson unveiled the official marketing name for the NRQ as Sevenstone. The branding was welcomed by business and political leaders in Sheffield, with subdued response from the public.
In March 2008, a 3-day public exhibition displayed the plans for Sevenstone in Sheffield City Centre. Local press described the reactions of Sheffield citizens to the plans as ‘mixed’ On 29 January 2009 (underclassrising.net had gathered as much during 2008) The Sheffield Star reported that the project had been put on hold indefinitely, based on an interview with Creative Sheffield (the city’s regeneration company) who retracted the statement the following day. Creative Sheffield remain “optimistic” that Sevenstone will begin in 2010, though Hammerson’s maintain there is currently no start date and Sheffield City Council does not believe work will commence until 2011. Just as one of the final obstacles towards a £600m reshaping of Sheffield city centre has finally been removed. After a public inquiry last autumn 2008, a Government inspector has approved a compulsory purchase order that allows the council to buy land to make way for the New Retail Quarter. It means that developers Hammerson can continue to press ahead with the NRQ Some existing businesses maintained that there hadn’t been enough negotiation, that the amount of land wanted was excessive or that they were not be offered a reasonable alternative location.

Hammerson who are to bring us the Sevenstone, are the same people who gave us the Castle Markets and Sheaf Markets both still unpaid for. Hammerson is one of Europe’s most innovative property companies, with operations in the UK and France. There portfolio comprises 1,300,000 sq m of retail space and 235,000 sq m of prime offices valued at over £ 7bn and we are listed on the London Stock Exchange and Euronext Paris. They are involved with UK retail property for over 30 years They opened Brent Cross, the UK’s first air-conditioned mall, in 1976. Over thirty years later, we continue to lead the industry, opening Highcross, Leicester and Cabot Circus, Bristol in 2008.

“The key objective of Sevenstone is to re-establish Sheffield as a leading regional shopping destination, bringing a new spirit of activity and opportunity to the heart of the city. The masterplan outlines the vision for how this will be achieved and establishes the parameters for the design of the buildings and public spaces.”

It seems lessons are not learned in Sheffield, from Hyde Park to The World Student Games that left us with a massive debt. I would agree some of the buildings in there wake have proven an asset to the city, I love the East End Park, and years on the new homes that were part of the deal for the games are now being built. But the wasteland around Meadowhell informs us of what has been lost, the fact The Local School has to time The Children at playtime are timed in and out of the School Playground, due to pollution from J36 of the M1.

These are the hidden cost along with the debt, it is the same across Sheffield MILLIONS of public  cash are spent and given to multi nationals, we lose that uniqueness and are slowly creeping our way to being like any other city. The Heart of The City project works from the Winter Gardens, (though it needs to be asked why a private hotel can have such access to them when at night it is closed to the public who paid for them) to The very wonderful Peace Gardens, that I was so wrong about in my objections to, and likewise Barkers Pool they work, right down to Rail Station. Though I do wonder about the wasteland around Sheaf Sq, over the road there is the Digital Campus. This city has moved on and ill be open to saying it is an improvement from the old  disused buildings that did loom over the city like skeletons of an industrial empire, we have lost them is there a need to become like any other northern cites indeed do we need Sevenstone?

Take a walk around and see what will be lost, in there are some ugly beasts agreed, so let’s look at removing them and refurbishing the older grand ladies. Such wholesale demolition is crass when we could look to refurbishing buildings, would it not be good to see the pedestrianisation of this area? Not only an improvement for those living in the city centre but also for those coming to the city, look at the plans for Sevenstone and what we are told is cutting edge architecture. If only we had the bollocks to do what Birmingham has created but here is a lesson they have not gone for the wholesale demolition now they have saved their old buildings added new ones that work. It’s nothing but propaganda from Hammerson when it says buildings of interest will be saved, this is just whitewash to have us believe this shopping centre is of value for Sheffield but it will blight us with another monolithic structure. 30 years on The Castle Markets are now facing demolition, we need to look what was lost in their building, the same will be for Sevenstone, lets take the fact it has been stalled to de-rail it and stop this, in the end it will become another White Elephant, are we going to learn from past mistakes?

If we are having to make ourself s more appealing for capitalism, and yes I would love to see change in the form of a revolution, but lets deal with the here and now, it is agreed there are more changes needed to bring back Sheffield. As a youth I watched the demolition of St Paul’s Parade then each weekend following a trip to Redgates Toy Shop, I would walk past the building of The New Town Hall (aka The Egg Box) stood looking into the new building taking shape, then down Fargate into Bradley’s Records back to the children’s home for lunch. I have grown up in a changing city one that has had aspirations well above its status, has seen the tax payers of Sheffield paying the cost of these follies, as the land stands empty where Trafalgar Works stood, where the last artist in there was given only 48 hours notice to move. 4 years on I walk past the waste ground where she stood, walking past empty shops.

Do not get me wrong I love a little urban dereliction is shows how fragile the cities are, but the wider public cost. I dream of the day that the flora of Mother Earth creeps over the ruin of our cities, as the faint sound of a 20k rig is pumping out in one of the empty shopping malls of Meadowhell, as the Skateboarders go down the static escalators, but this is but a dream and all too often I haunt myself with the ghost of the industrial past as I creep about the derelict factories of post de-industrialisation, the former lunatic asylums, empty court buildings. I know the cost to humanity in their loss, likewise the loss we shall witness in the building of Sevenstone, lets take this opportunity to look at re-using the buildings that are empty instead of their wholesale demolition.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “From 1989 to Sevenstone

  1. Pingback: Welcome to our playground. « moof

  2. Pingback: £20m of public funds are to go into saving the Sevenstone retail quarter in Sheffield city centre. « moof

  3. Pingback: Welcome to our playground. | Tales of an anarchist in Sheffield

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