Plans for business district are '˜a marker of confidence' in city

AMBITIOUS plans for a £175m development that could provide jobs for 5,000 office workers have been hailed by business chiefs as a 'marker of confidence' in Sheffield.

Developers Urbo have submitted plans for a mixed-use regeneration scheme on West Bar, which will create 1.4m sqft of space fronting the city’s inner relief road.

It is the latest incarnation of plans for the area which go back more than a decade.

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A ‘citadel’ of towering apartment blocks, offices and retail space fell by the wayside when developers Castlemore Securities went into administration in March 2009.

It was picked up by Urbo in 2011, who have redesigned the original Castlemore scheme, removing three large tower blocks, increasing the office footprint and placing greater emphasis on public space.

Adam Murray, vice-chair of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce’s Property and Regeneration Committee, said the scheme showed further positivity in regeneration in the city, which has also seen the resurgence of plans for the development of its new Retail Quarter - shelved amid the economic downturn but now back on track with the first phase expected to be complete by 2019 and banking giant HSBC planning a new base there.

“The fact the application has gone in is a real milestone. The area has been waiting 15 years for something to happen,” Mr Murray said. “After recent developments such as the announcement that the HS2 station will be in the city centre and HSBC choosing a new office space in the Retail Quarter, this is another big marker of confidence in Sheffield as a place for jobs and a city in which to grow your businesses,

“We need to be able to attract big companies that don’t currently have a base in the city, instead choosing Manchester or elsewhere, and to do that we need to be able to provide premium office space.”

The application includes plans for apartment blocks, a four-star hotel, restaurants, retail units and landscaped public spaces. More than half the scheme will be offices, providing jobs for up to 5,000 workers.

The submission of the outline planning application for West Bar Square is a step forward in the regeneration of Sheffield’s Riverside Business District, already home to major employers such as the Home Office and lawyers Irwin Mitchell.

Sheffield Council is currently embarking on a £3.6m ‘Grey to Green’ scheme to make 1.2km of roads in the area, from West Bar to Castlegate, more attractive to workers, developers, pedestrians and cyclists through a combination of planting wildflowers, grasses and trees and installing street art

The West Bar Square development will include a “major landscaped space”, comparable to Sheffield’s Millennium Square and is set to connect the Cathedral Quarter, Kelham Island and the Riverside areas of Sheffield city centre. Preparation work is already underway on site.

Urbo’s managing director Peter Swallow said: “It is a very significant development for the city and will create a premier business district to attract major employers.

“There has also been strong interest in private rented sector apartments with many investment funds eager to house people in a purpose-built environment.”