SHeffield suburb that helped city rebuild from Blitz has new role

It is hoped a new housing initiative will help rejuvenate a north Sheffield suburb 70 years after it was transformed following the war. Chris Bond reports.

Future vision: A CGI image of how new affordable homes proposed for Parson Cross in Sheffield might look.

WHEN Hitler unleashed the Luftwaffe it wrought havoc across the industrial heartlands of the North of England.

Towns and cities were hammered by this deadly onslaught and Sheffield was no exception.

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A succession of savage raids in December 1940 – what came to be known locally as the Sheffield Blitz – killed 668 civilians and 25 servicemen, injured more than 1,500 others and left a tenth of the city’s population homeless.

Parson Cross estate in its early days.

In Sheffield, the East End factories had been targeted by the Luftwaffe but in reality some of the worst-hit areas were places like Pitsmoor, Broomhill and Woodseats.

By the time the war had finished more than 32,000 people across the country had been killed by the Blitz, with over two million homes destroyed. It left a victorious, but bruised and battered nation with a mammoth rebuilding job.

In Sheffield, hundreds of families moved into newly-built homes in Parson Cross, in the north of the city, as part of a city-wide relocation programme. This sprawling estate was built largely to house steelworkers for Owlerton Valley.

Parson Cross became home to more than 16,000 people, making it one of the largest estates in Europe, but it faced huge social and economic challenges in dealing with the fallout from the collapse of the industry in the 1980s.

Parson Cross estate in its early days.

Last year it hit the headlines after three generations of the same crime family and their associates were jailed for more than 70 years for a massive drug-dealing operation and firearms offences. However, those living in Parson Cross believe it has been unfairly tarnished as a crime hotspot.

Now, 70 years after it became a focal point of post-war Sheffield, it’s once again at the forefront of the city’s housing vision for the future.

A new wave of affordable homes is being built by the Sheffield Housing Company, supported by the city council, with the aim of boosting the local area as well as employment and the wider economy.

It’s an attempt to help address the glaring shortage of new, and affordable, homes. In 2015, England’s local authorities built fewer than 3,000 new homes, just a tiny fraction of the estimated 250,000 new homes needed every year to meet demand.

It’s a vexed issue that the Chancellor Philip Hammond attempted to address in his Budget speech last week, when he set out plans to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.

The scheme in Sheffield involves the creation of new housing estates such as Cutler’s View and Brearley Forge and is one of the few examples of a council linking up with construction firms to kick-start the housing market.

People like Ricky Clifford, who recently moved into one of the new houses in Parson Cross, says the area can flourish. “It’s got little pockets of bad stuff but it’s not as bad as people make out. I’ve chosen to stay living in Parson Cross and it’s where we’ve bought our first house so that tells you what it’s like – and my kids are going to the local school.”

Councillor Ben Curran, cabinet member for planning and development at Sheffield City Council, believes the project is tapping into the spirit from the 1930s and 40s when the first wave of council homes were built and 
which fostered an enduring community identity.

“Our pioneering work like the Brearley Forge development in Parson Cross and across the city in the Manor are bringing these parts of the city back to life and making really positive improvements to those communities.

“This is something that the private sector has failed to do. So we have stepped in to ensure there are new homes are built at prices people can afford.”