The proposed demolition of buildings on Devonshire Street is a tragedy.
A tragedy for small business owners, a tragedy for the people now and in the future who enjoy them, a tragedy for those who care about our history (the buildings survived the war and Devonshire Green was given to the people of Sheffield as a memorial after the war).
It is tragic because it is avoidable. The Planning Committee has to follow national planning legislation and local guidance, which ties their hands. But there IS local guidance about what the Devonshire Quarter should look like and this clearly states there should be a mix of shops and residential uses. The council has not updated the guidance for 10 years and has not adhered to what there is, so gradually the area, including West One Plaza, has succumbed to big chain coffee shops, restaurants and bars. The planning committee has another application in front of it today, for late opening of the bars in West One. This will affect the people who live in West One and make it even less likely that they will ever be used as intended, i.e. shops, which would have drawn more people into the area during the day.
Imaginative planning officers have drawn up a City Centre Masterplan which would also support distinctive “Quarters” in the city – but this still hasn’t been through the official approval process so can’t be taken into account. The council is waiting for the University to finalise its masterplan. And cabinet members and officers are still trying to get a big developer and big retail chains to invest in the stalled New Retail Quarter project. In other words, they will always put the big corporations first.
We – the Green Party and all those who object to both these applications – have a different vision. We think the city centre should be designed to be a good place for residents and small businesses too. These are more likely to be locally owned, so the money they make circulates in the local economy. And the owners care more about their success and longevity because they have a stake in the city.
So, for the sake of our city centre, for the people who live and work here, for visitors now and in the future, we need to protect our heritage and support our home-grown businesses.