City revamp one step nearer as land deals start

A MAJOR retail scheme which is set to overhaul Sheffield city centre over the next four years yesterday took another step forward towards becoming reality.

Sheffield Council is now serving compulsory purchase order (CPO) notices on businesses that lie within the site of the multi-million-pound Sevenstone retail quarter development, between Barkers Pool, Pinstone Street and The Moor.

Yesterday, the council announced that, having renegotiated commercial terms with developer Hammerson, both parties are “now in a position to bring forward the delivery of the project”.

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Chief executive of Sheffield Council John Mothersole said: “We have been determined that the Sevenstone scheme should go ahead and this is now a very significant and practical step forward.

“A huge amount of effort and skill has gone into getting to this point for a development that will transform shopping in Sheffield city centre and will deliver many, many jobs for Sheffield people.”

Hammerson and Sheffield Council have now appointed agents Cushman Wakefield and Rees Denton to undertake the “detailed one-to-one negotiations on valuations and compensation” with all those landowners and businesses affected by the CPOs.

Council leader Julie Dore said yesterday: “The Sevenstone project is crucial in creating a vibrant city centre for Sheffield, bringing business, jobs and growth to the city.

“It’s fantastic that the scheme is back on track and this is a great step forward for economic growth in Sheffield.”

If the Sevenstone scheme had gone according to its original plan and not been severely hit by the recession, by now new shops would be preparing to open their doors to customers.

However, due to negotiations with landowners over compensation, it is now thought that construction won’t begin for another two-and-a-half years or so, and the earliest possible completion date will be 2015.

The new retail quarter project has been on hold since 2008, due to the financial crisis, and proposals have also been scaled back – though it is not yet clear exactly how the new plans will differ from the originals.

When it was announced in March this year that Sevenstone would be going ahead, Mr Mothersole said that the project would be “much more efficient” and “less costly”, although the final details as to how the new design will differ from the £600m original are still to be revealed.

According to Sheffield Council, the scheme will “still achieve what was originally intended” and will consist of a “retail-led mixed use development with an anchor department store, all contained within the site boundary of the original 2006 development agreement between the two parties”.

One suggestion is that, instead of building a completely new flagship John Lewis department store on the cleared site where Wellington Street fire station once stood, the department store will instead revamp its current store in Barkers Pool.

It has also been mooted that a proposed two-tier pedestrian street could be reduced to one level – though, overall, the development would still create a shopping centre about half the size of Meadowhall in Sheffield city centre.

Yesterday’s announcement came after funding for Sevenstone had to be restructured, to make the CPOs – which were set to expire this month – possible.

In January 2010 Sheffield Council agreed to borrow £10m to get the project back on track, with a further £10m expected to come from Government funding.

However, regional development agency Yorkshire Forward was then scrapped – taking £9.5m earmarked for the project with it.

Hammerson then agreed in March this year to put in another £10m so that the properties subject to CPOs could be bought in time. At the same time, the HCA also confirmed the restructuring of its investment.

Terms for “project delivery” have now been agreed between Hammerson, Sheffield Council and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to ensure the ambitious scheme, which will overhaul an area between Barker’s Pool, Pinstone Street and The Moor, can progress.