MEADOWHALL has become such an apparently immovable part of the retail landscape that it is hard to imagine a time when it never existed.
However, the giant shopping centre must move with the times, and Paul Case, a development director at British Land, is determined to make sure it appeals to a new generation of shoppers as he promotes plans for a new leisure hall.
“The key thing is we need to diversify the offer,” Mr Case added. “We know the retail world is changing. The shopping centre is 30 years’ old and it is structurally largely as it was when built.”
“We believe the new leisure hall will create over 1,000 jobs once it is built in full. We are asking the council for amended permission so we can deliver it over time. The aim is to bring the masterplan forward over a period of five to 10 years. It will bring jobs in incremental steps.”
Today visitors to centres like Meadowhall don’t just aim to pick up bargains. They want to be fed and entertained. It would be hard overstate the centre’s significance to the local economy.
Meadowhall, which opened in 1990 on the site of a former steelworks, covers 1.4 million sq ft of floor space and has 290 stores, ranging from independents to international brands.
It has 12,000 free parking spaces and direct access via rail, road and tram.
There’s even a landing pad for a helicopter, in case your numbers come up in the lottery.
So it is unsurprising that new designs for a leisure hall at the famous site should excite such interest.
The original £300m Leisure Hall was shelved last year due to uncertainty from Brexit and the wider economy.
British Land has launched a pre-application public consultation on its revised proposals for new leisure facilities at Meadowhall and Mr Case is keen to find out what the public thinks.
Meadowhall – one of Britain’s six super regional shopping centres– secured planning approval for a Leisure Hall in 2018, as British Land looked to diversify its offer beyond pure retail.
Since receiving planning permission, the retail and leisure sectors have undergone an unprecedented period of change.
These new proposals, while revised, are to be seen as a continuation of the development process, explained Mr Case
He said: “The primary vision remains the same. A Leisure Hall is still central to our plans and will enable us to transform our leisure offer at Meadowhall. We want to provide areas where family and friends can do fun activities together, simply relax, or enjoy a meal alongside their shopping.”
The planned revised Leisure Hall is set to be smaller in scale with far less high-street retail included than the previous proposals.
British Land has also decided to focus on an expansion and modernisation of the site’s existing cinema, as opposed to building a brand-new one.
The area further south of Meadowhall, where Next Home store is located, is also set to be developed.
Following increased demand from “big box retailers” in the market, the new proposals will now provide additional spaces for outdoor equipment, sports and homeware suppliers.
With the revised Leisure Hall expected to take several years to fully deliver, British Land said it was keen to deliver “an improved leisure offer” in the more immediate future.
The company has drawn up plans for the M1 distribution site to be transformed into an interim leisure park.
The site’s existing warehouses will be “re imagined” to provide new leisure opportunities. A landscaped outdoor adventure area for families to enjoy is also likely to be a key feature of the site, according to British Land.
Last month, British Land announced it had slumped to a £1.1bn loss due to the pandemic. But it had £1.3 billion of available cash and undrawn facilities and no requirement to refinance until 2024.
British Land intends to submit a new outline planning application this summer. A public consultation has launched and closes on July 17. The ball is now in the public’s court.
Mr Case, said: “ What we are looking for is the ability to deliver some elements of that existing consent in a different way, so it is done incrementally in stages. We are not asking for more floor space.
“The leisure hall will bring new faces. We already have a diverse customer base, however, the food and drink offer is based more on a daytime offer currently, as people grab a bite to eat between shopping.
“The revised leisure hall would be aimed at attracting more people to stay later or visit into the evening, by way of a higher-end food and beverage offer, enhancing Meadowhall as a destination attraction,’’ Mr Case said.
“At the same time, the provision of an enhanced leisure offer would encourage more families to visit. When the leisure hall comes on stream it will also feature external terraces.”
Mr Case said: “At the moment, Meadowhall is inward facing with no outside space. It’s a purely internal environment and you need to have an outside space to give people the chance to relax while meeting with friends.”
British Land has been holding talks with political and civic leaders about the latest proposals.
Mr Case said: “We have been talking to council officers in Sheffield and members of the council themselves about our plans,. “We’re also involving local MPs as part of the next stage, and will be engaging with the local councils in Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster.
He added. “People want to do more things when they come to shop. We need to create something different.”
"We have had a very positive response to the application so far. We are taking a phased approach so we can react to what's happening in the world. Meadowhall is very important to us and is a major employer."
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