The chief executive of the Rotherham and Barnsley Chamber of Commerce has warned that the construction of a HS2 station in Sheffield city centre would limit the advantages of the link to London for the rest of South Yorkshire.
Andrew Denniff is convinced that a station at Meadowhall will have the most positive impact on the Sheffield City Region and sees no valid reason why the Government should revisit its plans.
“I have lived in Sheffield for 57 years and speaking as a resident I can state unequivocally that Sheffield City Council do not speak for the many businesses in the city who see a clear case for the Meadowhall option,” he said.
“The Chamber of Commerce’s position hasn’t changed: ever since HS2 was first talked about we have been supportive because we understand the benefits it will bring to the region.
“Our view is the sooner the better: let’s build it from the North downwards and let this region gain maximum benefit as quickly as possible.
“We think the Meadowhall option is viable both economically and operationally for the Sheffield City Region.
“I say Sheffield City Region because what we are hearing from Sheffield now is a very Sheffield-centric argument. It’s a very parochial position and I don’t blame them for making it because I know they genuinely believe it’s the best option for Sheffield.
“But HS2 isn’t just about what’s best for Sheffield. The argument should be about what’s best for the Sheffield City Region.
“It is wrong to think of Meadowhall as ‘just’ a shopping centre. As the people in Sheffield know very well, there are huge plans afoot for the Sheffield and Rotherham Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation District, of which Meadowhall forms an important part.
“This district is attracting a great number of high end jobs to the region and the presence of a HS2 station at Meadowhall will see that number increase.
“There is much to be gained for the city region both in terms of growth and high-end job creation.
“The desire to build the new station in Sheffield may or may not be linked to plans to redevelop the city centre, but those plans have been knocking around for years.
“I appreciate that the retail offer in Sheffield city centre suffered as a result of Meadowhall opening, but no more so than it did in Rotherham and Barnsley.
“Meadowhall is a huge draw which brings massive benefits for the Sheffield City Region. It’s a fantastic destination that helps us to develop the whole region.
“There is a real danger here that unless we can come to some sort of agreement, be it compromise or talking it round, that all our ambitions for the region will suffer. We have to do what’s best for all of us.
“Leeds came together: the Council, the local authorities, the business community and the broader region all agreed on what was best in regard to HS2 for the region and the city.
“At some stage we have to get to that same point. We are not there at the moment, there is still some hard talking to do and our talking will be around there being a very strong case for Meadowhall.”