Are developers going to get their pick of Sheffield's housing sites?

A recent planning inspector's report contains a sting in the tail, plus the rest of our Monday briefing

Good afternoon readers — and welcome to this week’s Tribune briefing.

Today we have an in-depth look at the planning system in Sheffield, and how a recent ruling by the planning inspector contains a sting in the tail. We also recommend a brilliant open-air Shakespeare production and bring you the latest local Covid-19 data.

Lots of people loved our weekend read by the historian Thomas McGrath about the 1923 murder of Sheffield nurse Ada Bradley. You can still read that piece here. This week, we’ll be sending our 350 members stories about the dark side of adoption and fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing’s giant Sheffield warehouse.

And just a quick shout-out to our sister newsletter The Mill, which published a phenomenal long read this weekend about Greater Manchester’s close ties with China. Do sign up to The Mill’s email list if you’re from Manchester or want to know what’s happening over there (and please do recommend it to any Mancunian friends).

If you have any information which might help our reporting on Sheffield’s growing China links, please get in touch: editor@sheffieldtribune.co.uk or just hit reply to this newsletter.


This week’s weather


The big story: Sheffield’s housing shortage

Top line: Last week campaigners in Sheffield were celebrating a famous victory after a planning inspector found in their favour over a controversial housing plan. But a closer look at the inspector’s ruling makes less comfortable reading for Sheffield City Council.

Background: A proposal by Patrick Properties to build 300 homes on a former industrial site in the Loxley Valley was announced in May 2020. After a campaign by the Friends of the Loxley Valley and the CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council rejected the proposal in September 2020.

Planning enquiry: After the developers appealed the decision, a three-week long planning enquiry began in April. The planning inspector last week ruled in favour of the council and campaigners. The ruling was welcomed by the area’s MP Olivia Blake. She said:

This decision should give hope to other communities across the country, fighting to protect green spaces and uphold local decision making.

The catch: National planning rules state a council should be able to show it has enough new homes to cover a five year period. If it can’t, the presumption should normally be in favour of development.

How many homes is Sheffield short? In its representations to the inspector, the council claimed to be able to demonstrate 5.4 years of housing supply. However, the inspector found that several of these sites were undeliverable within that timeframe and that clusters of student flats should not have been included in the calculation.

  • After deducting the housing that it said should not have been included, the developer said that the council only realistically had a housing supply of 3.5 years.

  • This, taking into account a 35% uplift which the inspector said the council should have applied to their initial calculation, leaves Sheffield some 7,500 homes short. 

No local plan: Councils are meant to set down their development plans in a document called a local plan, but Sheffield doesn’t currently have one.

  • The process of creating a local plan can be lengthy and controversial, but they allow councils to maintain control of the planning system rather than allow developers to dictate the process.

  • The council last year said Sheffield’s Local Plan would not be in place until 2023. When created, this will act as the guidebook for development in the city for the next 15 years until 2038.

Analysis: Without a local plan and without enough viable sites in the pipeline to hit national housing targets, Sheffield City Council has left itself open to legal challenge by developers, who will be feeling bullish. Loxley valley was saved because of its position near the Peak District boundary and in the city’s green belt, where rules on “inappropriate development” override housing supply considerations. In less protected areas, however, developers will likely get their way.


Opera on Location performed Claude Debussy’s The Prodigal Son to a sell-out crowd at Kelham Island on Sunday, August 15. If you missed it, a recording of the full show will be available on their website from Monday, August 23.


Get in touch

I’m doing some reporting on the state of the new council administration and how things have played out since the election, so I’m looking for people — councillors, council officers and others with inside knowledge — who can contribute information and context to the piece. Please just hit reply to this newsletter to help out — I’m happy to treat your information in confidence and speak to you on ‘deep background’. Or just email me at editor@sheffieldtribune.co.uk.


Covid-19 update

Rules: People who are fully vaccinated no longer have to isolate if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. The change should lessen the severity of the so-called “pingdemic” which has caused widespread problems to services and workplaces.

Cases: After several weeks of worrying rises in the Covid case rate in Sheffield, the numbers of people testing positive for the virus are on the way down again. The current rate of 420.7 is 14.8% down on the previous week. The England rate is 305.1, up 3.8%.

Hospitals: 83 people are currently being treated for Covid-19 in hospital in Sheffield, a rise of five from last week. 14 of these patients are on ventilation, a rise of four from seven days ago. Nine deaths linked to the virus have taken place in Sheffield over the last week.

Vaccines: 699,466 vaccine doses have now been given out in Sheffield, including 383,606 first doses and 315,860 second doses. However, vaccine progress is slowing significantly in the city. Over three quarters of people have now had both doses (better than most cities in the UK) but there are still many young people in Sheffield who are yet to have their first.


Could Frank the whippet be saved after all?

The news that Pete McKee’s much-loved mural of Frank the whippet in Neepsend had been obscured by a lean-to was greeted by yelps of dismay last week. Pete himself was typically sanguine about the development, saying it was part and parcel of the “fragile nature of street art”, but suggested a better solution would have been to paint over him and give him a “dignified end”. On Friday, however, the Parrot Club bar — who erected the lean to — said that it was merely a temporary measure and they have plans to bring Frank back in the future.


Our favourite reads

  1. A good interview by Star business editor David Walsh with Green councillor and cooperative executive member Douglas Johnson. The power-sharing agreement between Labour and the Greens is still in its infancy but tensions are beginning to emerge over key projects such as the pedestrianisation of the city centre.

  2. An astonishing story about an internet “troll” from Sheffield who has been handed an 18 month suspended sentence after she started a campaign of abuse against other social media users. Katie Bell, aged 25, began abusing people in 2017, some of whom travelled to Sheffield to read out victim impact statements at her trial.

  3. A lovely piece on the BBC website about Sheffield music legends Pulp’s visit to Shetland in 1996. The band were at the height of their fame and had just played in front of 70,000 people at a festival. But thanks to keyboardist Candida Doyle, the band’s next gig was in front of just 1,400 people at a Lerwick leisure centre.

  4. The Guardian reports that the think tank Centre for Cities believes that Boris Johnson would need to spend £2tn in order to properly “level up” the north of England. They describe the money that has been promised so far as “a drop in the ocean” compared to what is required, which is more akin to what Germany spent after reunification.

  5. Please forgive us blowing our own trumpet a bit but The Tribune’s newsletter model has been getting quite a lot of attention recently. Joshi Herrmann, the editor of our sister title The Mill, was interviewed for a piece in the i Paper last week. He also spoke to Journalism website and Hold the Front Page about setting up The Mill and helping with The Tribune.


Things to do

Festival: The Summer in the Outdoor City events continue this week with Festival on the Square, a two-week long film and entertainment programme in Tudor Square. The festival runs from 16-30 August and will include art, theatre, circus skills and workshops. A full list of all the films that will be shown is here.

Theatre: After a year away due to Covid, the Handlebards return to Heeley People’s Park on Tuesday with a bicycle-powered, farcical production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I’ve seen them twice now and can absolutely vouch for their brilliance. The “pay what you can” open-air show begins at 7pm.

Nature: Alistair McLean, the curator of natural sciences at Sheffield Museums will be hosting a nature walk about dragonflies this Thursday, August 19. The walk will take place along the River Dearne and participants with participants taught how to identify the area’s species. The walk will set off from the footpath at the end of Vicar Road in Darfield at 11am. Book here

Market: Another element of the Summer in the Outdoor City programme is Hedgerow. For four Saturdays over the next four months (August 21, September 18, October 9 and November 6) Division Street will be transformed into an open air market featuring artists and makers as well as live music and street food. You can also apply to be a trader here.

Music: The next Sheffield Music Trail takes place next Saturday, August 21, featuring seven different acts performing at seven venues around the city. The shows begin at the Greystones pub in Ecclesall at 12 noon and finish at Hagglers’ Corner on Queen’s Road at 8pm. Acts include funk and soul group Casual Delights and all-girl indie band Potpourri.

Looking ahead: Our recommendations at The Tribune tend to cover the next week or so. But if you want to plan further ahead, the Outdoor City website has produced an amazingly comprehensive and useful list of everything that’s taking place in the city centre over the next few months.


Technicolour trails

These amazing shots of the stunning heather on Derwent Edge were captured by fell runner Simon Walkden over the weekend. Simon, whose day job is the jealousy-inducing role of chief operating officer at Thornbridge Brewery, also shares his photos on Instagram here.