£100,000 of public money to put a helter-skelter in an office

A HELTER-skelter built inside a Yorkshire office building was paid for with almost £100,000 of public money, the city council has revealed.

The slide, installed at the Electric Works block in Sheffield, attracted national attention when the building opened in March, offering office staff a quirky alternative method of travel between its third and ground floors.

But the helter-skelter, which is not accessible to members of the public, cost taxpayers 91,500.

Electric Works was developed by regional development agency Yorkshire Forward in partnership with Sheffield City Council.

Sylvia Anginotti, the council's cabinet member for Enterprise and Employment, said the decision had been made by a previous administration, but justified the expense, citing the level of positive publicity it created.

She said: "The decision to include a slide in the building's design was actually taken by the then Labour Council and its partners before our time as the administration.

"However the sheer amount of positive international publicity it has generated for Sheffield, and the Electric Works site itself, means that the decision to include the slide has paid off."

When the Electric Works building opened in March, Toby Hyam, managing director of Creative Space Management, which runs the building, said the slide would "be available for business visitors and for conference visitors, but... will not be open to the general public."

The building, part of five forming Sheffield's new Digital Campus, is designed to house companies employing up to 75 people in the creative and digital sectors, and can provide workspace for up to 400 people.

But two months after its opening, just a fifth of offices in the building are occupied.

David Custance, assistant director of Urban Renaissance and Property at Yorkshire Forward, admitted that only 20% of the block was in use, but defended what he termed an "exciting, unusual and contemporary" idea.

"Yorkshire Forward funded the fit-out of the Electric Works as part of its commitment to the region's Digital and Creative Sector," he said.

"We worked with partners, Sheffield City Council and Creative Space Management, on the initiative to help develop businesses and attract new entrepreneurs and businesses to Sheffield."

"The helter-skelter is an exciting, unusual and contemporary feature in the three-storey atrium, differentiating the building and achieving international interest.

"In these tough market conditions, it is important to remember that the features which make this building stand out and has gained it such interest have also ensured it has already achieved 20% of the available office space committed and has enquiries for a further 20% of the available space and conference booking."

Cllr Anginotti promised the council would offer members of the public some opportunity to try out the 85ft (26m) spiral slide over the course of the summer.

She said: "In terms of public access, this summer there will be a free open day at Electric Works for members of the public who wish to try out the slide.

"There will also be a series of events for young entrepreneurs and school children interested in enterprise, to stimulate interest in business and to raise the aspiration of young people in the city."

But one unnamed former Sheffield businesswoman told the Sheffield Star she felt the helter-skelter was an example of "blue-sky thinking" in a poor economic climate.

"Public money totalling 91,500, just to install a giant helter-skelter, seems such a waste," she told the paper. "I wonder how many people have actually used it, and the cost per ride?"

"This idea seems to have been dreamed up by people sitting around a table using 'blue sky thinking' when that money could have been used to help small businesses with their costs."

Original story

Back to the top of the page