I hope that 2014 sees Sheffield adopt a new vision for its city centre. Regular readers will know that the developer Hammerson’s pulled out of creating a new retail quarter based on large chain stores. With the economic downturn and the switch to internet shopping, it was simply not viable. An alternative would be to focus on residential development coupled with support for more local and independent businesses and shops. This would help solve another long-running problem, namely the lack of housing, which has led the council to propose building on our precious green belt.
High quality and affordable apartments in the city centre could be an attractive option for retired people seeking to downsize from family homes in the outskirts of the city, as well as for those working in the city centre. It is already very convenient for many facilities and services – transport, hospitals, library, theatres, restaurants and bars, public spaces, shops etc. These would need to be enhanced, for instance with doctors and dentists surgeries and schools. There could be more pocket parks and trees, but also an emphasis on routes out to the excellent nearby parks, allotments and countryside.
Such a city centre would also be a more attractive destination for visitors from elsewhere in the city or further afield and could help to sustain a variety of shops and businesses, including independents. There would need to be much clearer policies to contain the “night-time economy” (9pm to 5am vertical drinking, which is currently the main growth area) and to encourage day-time and early evening activity. Air quality would need to improve, but a denser population in the centre would reduce the need to travel and hence improve congestion.
We need to make a bold shift away from the desire to turn our city centre over to “clone town” chain stores and to create a better balance between residential, business, recreation and shopping.
Cllr Jillian Creasy, Sheffield Green Party