Chamber calls on City to approve both NEXT and IKEA!

24th April 2013

Chamber calls on City to approve both NEXT and IKEA, and look for different options for the city centre; but to get on with them now! The announcement last week by IKEA that it still wants to invest , following on from the NEXT planning refusal (now at appeal), is a real test of the ambition of our city moving forwards.

It also highlights the poor position we have put ourselves in by linking ourselves so closely to Hammerson because Sevenstones/NRQ seems to have been -coming for years but never quite does! To turn down IKEA after the NEXT decision would be unthinkable because we cannot refuse over 500 jobs, (plus those required to build the facilities), and we clearly need to stop wealth leaking out of the region when people go to Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham to shop. And we have to let the businesses invest where they need to refusing NEXT because there is a site in the city centre is wrong! The Chamber is delighted that IKEA stuck with the city because they were already refused planning 10 years ago. It is quite clear from the Radio Sheffield phone-in last week that the vast majority of callers supported the investment and we are pretty confident they would do the same for NEXT. Meadowhall is a tremendous asset to our city, we should nurture it and help it stay competitive. Ask yourselves how many cities in the UK would love to have a Meadowhall within their boundaries? Sorting out the traffic issues at Junction 34 must be done because if the planning application for IKEA is turned down because of traffic issues then our City's decision makers need their collective heads looking at. There is an Enterprise Zone, more development land in the Lower Don Valley, a proposed HS2 station, and planned investments by a number of companies in the area. Are we going to constrain those investments and the jobs they create because of traffic volume? It has been said that allowing Meadowhall to invest and expand (and NEXT and IKEA must be in that category) would hold back the city centre. Rubbish!! The city centre must be developed to reflect the changing requirements in the future. It needs a distinctive offer to compliment Meadowhall, Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster and Chesterfield. The LEP Retail Forum strategy clearly shows this is possible. Sevenstone is in danger of becoming a millstone around the City' neck and a bit of a joke because it is taking too long to happen but interestingly the delay has given us a chance to asses other options. It was designed over 10 years ago and clearly the world has moved on so we may need to change our ideas. Whatever the design Hammersons have for a whole raft of economic reasons sat on their hands. Is now the time to invite ideas and expressions of interest from other developers? The relationship with Hammersons appears to have become just too cosy and we need to stimulate some action. The Council did well to get some funding towards the development but they need to use the commercial muscle it brings to drive the best deal with the right partner. Sheffield has waited too long for all this to happen. Trinity at Leeds etc has passed us by and now the Eastgate scheme seems to be getting going before a brick of our new retail quarter has been laid. Our City leaders should show a bit of back bone and embrace development by IKEA and NEXT, and take the risk to kick Hammerson to put up or shut up. For goodness sake let's ask somebody else to bid. The businesses and population of Sheffield deserve the opportunities in jobs and wealth creation that these will bring and at the moment and for the foreseeable future our City Centre is held in limbo.

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