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New lease of life planned for stretch of historic Sheffield river

The Porter Brook in Sheffield at the Platform_ site.
The Porter Brook in Sheffield at the Platform_ site.
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A neglected waterway that runs through Sheffield city centre is to be revived as part of a £75 million scheme.

A stretch of the Porter Brook - which starts in the Peak District near Ringinglow and flows down to the railway station, where it meets the River Sheaf in an underground culvert - will be spruced up and opened to the public by developer Platform_, which wants to build 335 apartments off Sylvester Street on a surface car park next to the Decathlon store.

An artist's impression of the Platform_ scheme showing the revived Porter Brook on Mary Street, Sheffield.

An artist's impression of the Platform_ scheme showing the revived Porter Brook on Mary Street, Sheffield.

The river is difficult to see at present - it is hidden behind a wall along Mary Street, overgrown and littered with debris. The plan links with the council's ambition to make more of Sheffield's waterways, sections of which were built over and turned into sewers when the industrial revolution took hold.

A pocket park has already been established at Matilda Street beside the Porter, which gets its name from its brownish colour similar to the shade of porter beer, gained as it passes over iron-ore deposits. The public space, featuring tiered seating and plants, was merely a temporary car park until the council teamed up with the Environment Agency, which maintains a levy aimed at covering the cost of flood defences. A similar model was used for another small park beside the River Don on Nursery Street, and the River Sheaf is expected to be uncovered at Castlegate to form a pleasant spot at the Sheaf Field - the site that gave Sheffield its name.

The Sylvester Street development is the first project from Platform_ to be constructed from scratch and will offer purpose-built rental flats, tapping into an emerging market in the UK. The site sits within the Cultural Industries Quarter, defined by historic street patterns from the 18th century, evidence of early water-powered mills and traces of Sheffield's old 'Little Mesters' metal trades workshops.

The apartments could cater for up to 1,000 residents and would be built in two separate blocks - one L-shaped structure ranging in height from 14 to seven storeys, and the other covering five floors. Studio apartments and one, two and three-bedroom flats are envisaged, along with workspaces on the ground floor for creative businesses. A planning application has been submitted and a verdict from councillors is expected soon.

On the Porter Brook, Platform_ has promised to plant vegetation along the edge and place rocks in the middle to slow down the water's flow and reintroduce habitats for wildlife. A new pedestrian route will run parallel to the river, with a bridge allowing people to access the new buildings. The brook will remain culverted in places - here open spaces are to be created, looking to the Matilda Street pocket park as a precedent.

"Our plans would not only enhance the Porter Brook but provide an incredible public space for Mary Street," the proposals from Platform_ say.