YP Letters: History repeats for white elephants in the urban jungle

Should there be greater development controls in Sheffield city centre?
Should there be greater development controls in Sheffield city centre?
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From: Michael Parker, Robertshaw Crescent, Deepcar, Sheffield.

THROUGHOUT the 1980s and 90s, building industrial units and/or office accommodation in largely inner city or derelict outer areas to achieve regeneration and job creation was all the rage; presumably in deference to the so-called Say’s Law i.e. supply creates its own demand.

However, in reality, such schemes tended to lie vacant as the predicted rush for space failed to materialise, hence “enterprise zones” and their ilk with mainly favourable tax incentives were created in an effort to entice business set- ups in these dormant areas.

The result was to, by and large, attract existing business from other areas, which brought with them their more skilled and educated workforce, thereby leaving only a few low-skilled, low-paid and usually part-time jobs for the indigenous locals.

Then when the incentives ran out, more often than not so did the businesses concerned. This returned the situation back to square one with now relatively new buildings lying empty most of the time, along with the units and offices that were never taken up in the first place.

The first decade of the new millennium saw a developmental shift, predominantly towards a combination of building the odd new office block together with out-of-town retail developments and student accommodation blocks purportedly in response to demand.

And while the latter filled an actual need for a while, it is nevertheless becoming increasingly clear that there is a finite limit to how many students can be catered for when university towns/cities are in competition for them.

In the meantime, empty office blocks have also been lately transformed into student accommodation.

But nevertheless, it now appears that yet another developer is intending to build yet another city centre office block, ostensibly in response to “soaring demand”, though no tenants are lined up.

Given previous experience, one fears that all the result will be if this is allowed to go ahead, is yet another white elephant, which no doubt the public purse will have to pay for at some time in the future.

Yet another example of the more something changes, the more it remains the same.

Isn’t it time we started to genuinely think “outside of the box” for once and come up 
with a new vision for the 21st century rather than continually insisting on living in the 18th century?