Sheffield retail plan faces new delay as Leeds and Bradford see progress

An artist's impression of the original Sevenstone scheme
An artist's impression of the original Sevenstone scheme
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WORK on a stalled “new retail quarter” project which was supposed to begin in 2009 will now not start until 2015 at the earliest, according to the London-based developer behind the scheme.

Hammerson, which yesterday announced it was moving forward with its Eastgate Quarter project in Leeds, said it was still trying to establish Sheffield’s Sevenstone idea as a “viable project”.

Under the original agreement, which was signed with Sheffield Council six years ago, the firm should have finished a revamp of the city centre by now, but it was postponed during the recession.

Earlier this year, Sheffield Council’s chief executive John Mothersole told the Yorkshire Post he was confident of a 2014 start date, after offering Hammerson an extra £45m to get moving.

John Lewis initially signed up for a new store in the project then pulled out, has now indicated it may be prepared to commit to a new store again, but uncertainty still hangs over the whole plan.

Yesterday, Sheffield Council said all three major players “remain committed to delivering on the city’s Sevenstone retail project” and said it was hoped to start on site in 2014/15.

A spokesman said: “All parties have been focused on a new scheme layout and have agreed the location of a new anchor John Lewis store.

It is anticipated that the new scheme will include up to 700,000 sq ft of retail with extensive food and entertainment venues along with a multi-storey car park and high quality public realm.

“Further work on both the revised scheme and associated costs is taking place behind the scenes to try and establish a viable project with long term sustainability within the constraints of the new retail world.

“All parties are due to meet for further discussions throughout this month.”

The extra cash offered by the council has been made available as a result of its City Deal with the Government, which allows it to release money which it will recoup later through business rates.

Plans have been scaled back significantly over the last few years, with the budget shrinking from £600m to £300m.

Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council’s business spokesman said: “We are working tirelessly to kick-start the regeneration of the city centre through the Sevenstone development.

“The scheme has stalled in recent years, in part due to the continued weakness of the global economy, but we want to do everything we can to make this happen.

“We want the city centre to flourish, we want to deliver our ambitions, boost the city region’s economy and provide 1,000 jobs for the people of Sheffield.”

“The council has worked on an innovative scheme which allows the use of New Development Deal powers to speed up delivery of the New Retail Quarter by injecting funds into the development.

“This involves using the new additional business rates that will be generated from the new scheme to ease constraints which stifle the project at the moment.

“We are keen to get the scheme up and running but these things take time, we must make sure that we have a viable scheme that works for all partners involved and means that the scheme will be delivered.”

The news on Sevenstone came as developer Westfield reaffirmed its intention to begin work later this year on a major shopping centre in Bradford.

In a directors’ report, the Australian-based company said it expected to commence work on two major Australian projects and one in the UK - the £260m Broadway shopping centre in Bradford city centre, which is several years overdue.

Westfield said its profits for 2012 topped £1bn.

The news follows the recent council approval for Debenhams, an anchor store at the proposed Bradford development, to increase its floospace from two to three floors.

Shoppers and businesses have been waiting for years for the shopping scheme to get off the ground. It is more than seven years since the site was cleared of buildings.