THE man behind the controversial redevelopment of Sheffield’s Park Hill flats yesterday rounded on the scheme’s critics as the first new resident exchanged contracts on a purchase.
Tom Bloxham, the chief executive of Urban Splash, said suggestions the scheme would cost the city’s council taxpayers millions were wrong, and added the development was “on track”.
Mr Bloxham, whose firm has also carried out major projects in Leeds and Bradford, congratulated 25-year-old Adam Jackson on his purchase and said 45 apartments in the first 78-flat phase had now been sold.
The £146m Park Hill redevelopment scheme has received about £30m in public funding through the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency. Sheffield Council signed over the building to the company for nothing.
Critics, including Sheffield Council’s former leader Paul Scriven, had called for the flats to be demolished and described them last month as a “millstone around the city’s neck”.
But Mr Bloxham said: “You can’t just demolish Park Hill, because it is listed so to pull it down would be a criminal act. People who are criticising the scheme have no other ideas about what to do with the building,
“None of the money that is being spent is from city funds and I actually think this is a great example of us working in partnership with Sheffield Council to attract funding from Whitehall.
“It’s my opinion that we should get as much money out of London and into cities like Sheffield and the rest of Yorkshire as possible, and that is what we are doing.”
Mr Bloxham explained that the HCA and other public funders would get a share of the profits of the scheme as part of the deal, so if the revamp succeeds the taxpayer does well, but if it doesn’t the money will not be paid back.
But he added that despite the difficult market, Urban Splash was confident that it would sell the rest of the first phase, which also includes some social housing, freeing up funds to move onto the second stage.
Park Hill contains more than 900 flats, meaning that the first buyers face the prospect of living on a building site for many years.
But Mr Jackson, who works for a Sheffield-based plumbing supplies firm and lives in Doncaster, said that was an issue that didn’t worry him.
He added: “An uncle and aunty of my grandparents actually moved into Park Hill when it was new, so I had an idea of its history and I like the fact that I am taking it full circle.
“I have paid £90,000 for a one-bedroom flat and I can see myself living here for at least 10 or 15 years. The location is great and the views are amazing.”
Mr Bloxham wouldn’t make a prediction on when the project would be complete, but added: “We’re happy with progress”.