Is a low tax, low regulation ‘investment zone’ really what South Yorkshire needs?
Plus, a beautiful new installation at Sheffield Cathedral
Good morning readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
The cut and thrust of politics returned incredibly quickly after the Queen’s funeral last week. Among a raft of announcements in a “mini-budget” on Friday was a new proposal for “investment zones” — areas of the country which have different tax rules, environmental regulations and planning laws.
The government says that these zones will help “level up” the country by “unleashing the power of the private sector”, but others believe they could herald a dangerous “race to the bottom” for our region. Today, we look at what the policy could mean for Sheffield and South Yorkshire.
As well as that we have an interesting update about the Salvation Army Citadel, some great photos from the Sheffield 10k which took place on Sunday, and a mini-obituary for a famous alumnus of the University of Sheffield.
Catch up and coming up
For our weekend read, Harry Shukman looked at a mysterious UFO sighting and a Sheffield university lecturer's role in uncovering the truth about it. You can still read that piece here.
Last weekend’s story about the future of Cole Brothers turned out to be one of our most popular pieces ever, with lots of comments and questions from readers underneath our article. You can still read that piece and the discussion (and leave a comment of your own) here.
After taking a bit of time off last week to recharge our batteries, we’re back to normal from tomorrow with two great newsletters full of original journalism and cultural recommendations for our 793 paying members. The first will include an update on fracking after the moratorium on the controversial technology was lifted last week. And the second will include a report from an anti-abortion demonstration due to take place outside Jessops from this Wednesday.
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The big picture: Messages of hope 🕊️
A stunning new installation and community project is now open at Sheffield Cathedral. Created by sculptor Peter Walker, Peace Doves features thousands of messages of hope and peace from people and communities across Sheffield. It is open until 13 November.
This week’s weather 🌦️
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say low pressure dives down from the north this week, settling to the east of the UK and encouraging showers and a much cooler airmass along with it.
Monday 🌥 Many places should enjoy a dry, if nippy day. Winds brisk from the northwest with only isolated showers. Highs of 13°C.
Tuesday 🌦 The shower risk grows but in our advantageous inland position east of the hills we should still enjoy good drier and brighter spells. Highs of 13°C.
Wednesday 🌦 Still the risk of some moderate to heavy showers, but brighter periods commonplace too. Still chilly, especially overnight with highs of 13°C.
Thursday 🌦 Not dissimilar to the previous couple of days with further scattered showers developing in between brighter spells. Lighter winds compared with earlier in the week. Highs of 14°C.
Friday 🌧 Models show another low beginning to take over from the west, with milder air being dragged north. Potentially wet and windy from the southwest with highs of 15°C.
Outlook: Unsettled weather clearing with higher pressure trying to ridge in from the south. Basically, the further south and east you are the better chance you have of staying dry!
The big story: Is a low tax, low regulation ‘investment zone’ really what South Yorkshire needs?
Top line: South Yorkshire could become an “investment zone” under new government plans. What would that mean?
Going for growth: Last Friday, new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced the creation of investment zones: areas of the country which have different tax, regulatory and planning rules. These have been dubbed “full-fat freeports”, in reference to the areas around air and sea ports where different economic regulations apply.
In these areas, employment taxes like National Insurance would be cut while environmental regulations and rules on planning would be reduced.
Stamp duty would also be abolished on new business or residential buildings and land purchases, and companies would get tax rebates on purchases.
Benefits: The fact that 38 UK local authorities are reportedly queuing up to become investment zones indicates a strong level of support for the policy in many areas. When previous chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the first eight freeports last year, South Yorkshire’s application was rejected. At the time, Doncaster Chamber chief executive Dan Fell said the decision was “incredibly frustrating” and a “missed opportunity”. Modelling had shown that a freeport in South Yorkshire could create up to 30,000 new jobs.
Criticisms: Not everyone is convinced, however. Some suggest that rather than creating new growth, investment zones merely move around what is already there, with areas of depressed economic activity developing around the new zones. A piece on the Centre for Cities website says that while investment zones become cheaper places to do business and create some jobs, they don’t address the long-standing problems that areas like South Yorkshire face. It said:
If investment zones do create jobs (and past evidence on this is underwhelming) it is likely that they will merely encourage further low-skilled job creation. Creating more jobs is obviously a good thing, but it replicates what the places already have and the problems (e.g. low wages, lack of career progression) this creates, rather than changing the make-up of them.
Disaster capitalism? Even stronger criticisms have come from some who see the policy as replicating the idea of Charter Cities from the United States (quasi-sovereign bodies located within existing states which are run more like private companies than traditional city governments).
Writing in The Guardian, environmental campaigner George Monbiot said freeports and investment zones were being used by big businesses to bypass local democracy and ride roughshod over hard-won planning and environmental protections.
Even the normally mild-mannered RSPB has called on its members to fight the investment zone policy, saying the government’s stated aim to “release more land for housing and commercial development” was essentially “a full on attack on nature".
Bottom line: In an era of perpetual austerity, it’s understandable that local authorities are keen to access all the investment they can. However, in our desperation to grow our economy, it would be wise to be cautious about how much we are prepared to give up. New Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng says the best way to “level up” the UK is by “unleashing the power of the private sector” — but at what cost?
Home of the week 🏡
This beautiful two-bedroomed triplex apartment is part of the Grain Warehouse at Victoria Quays and is full of period features and exposed timber. It is on the market for £249,950.
Our media picks 🎧
Failed Apple shop plan left Salvation Army Citadel stuck 🏰 A timely article by David Walsh in The Star speaks to the current owner of the Salvation Army Citadel on Cross Burgess Street in Sheffield city centre. Robert Hill bought the beautiful but dilapidated building for £865,000 in 2007 with plans to open an £11m Apple shop. He tells Walsh he is prepared to negotiate with the council over a possible sale — but that he’s not prepared to sell at a loss.
Mam Tor: Work begins on restoring Bronze Age hill fort ⛰️ A nice story on the BBC website about work to restore a Bronze Age hill fort on Mam Tor in Derbyshire. Work to protect the ancient barrows and ramparts of the hill fort will take place in stages this winter with the full project expected to be completed by spring 2023. Mam Tor (which means Mother Hill) is a scheduled ancient monument and is thought to have been occupied from around 1200 BC.
5 food destinations to try this autumn 🌭 A useful piece by Now Then’s food critic Ros Ayers recommends five lesser-known places to eat in the city. Her picks include Tonco in Sharrow, Get Wurst on Fargate (when the shipping containers finally open!), Napoli Centro and Smorgas on Glossop Road and Lemongrass Thai Street Food in the Moor Market. As well as food reviews, the piece also includes some mouth-watering photos of the dishes on offer.
Running up that hill 🏃🏼♀️
Sheffield’s annual 10k road race took place on Sunday, bringing thousands of runners to the streets of the Steel City. The men’s race this year was won by Scott Hinchcliffe in a time of 31:48, while the fastest woman was Alice Daniel who came home in 36:38. However, the biggest cheer was reserved for Sheffield’s “man with the pram” John Burkhill, who was collecting money in his bid to raise £1m for the charity Macmillan Cancer Support (he has raised £865,690 so far).
Things to do 📆
Art 🎨 Celebrated Sheffield illustrator Tom J. Newell has got a new exhibition at The Art House on Backfields. Out of the Mud includes paintings, prints and pottery — all of which feature the bold and intricate monochrome line-work for which he is famous. As well as work on wood and recycled card, the exhibition also includes two large vases on which Newell has collaborated with potter Mike Scown. The exhibition is on until Friday, 7 October.
Talk ⛓ To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Precious Little Gems (an annual commission by the Yorkshire Artspace’s Silversmiths Starter Studio), Sheffield Museums’ curator of industry and metalwork Emma Paragreen will host a lunchtime talk on Tuesday, 27 September (1.00pm-1.45pm) which looks at the diversity and range of work produced over the last two decades. A display in the Millennium Gallery foyer is also showing a selection of the pieces.
Theatre 🎭 On at the Tanya Moiseiwitsch Playhouse (formerly the Crucible Studio Theatre) until Saturday, 15 October is Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Published in 1970, the play has gone on to be performed in more than 40 countries and is considered a classic of 20th century theatre. Starring Daniel Rigby (Frost/Nixon, A Midsummer Night's Dream) the production “exposes the absurd corruption and terrifying idiocy at the heart of the system”.
‘I have the warmest memories of the place and people’ 📚
Tributes have been paid to acclaimed novelist Dame Hilary Mantel, who died last week aged 70. Born in Glossop, Derbyshire, she studied law at the University of Sheffield, going on to graduate with a BA in jurisprudence in 1973. After graduating she worked in a department store and began writing (although she didn’t become a published author until 1985).
Decades later, Mantel shot to fame with her smash-hit historical novel about Thomas Cromwell Wolf Hall, which won the Booker Prize in 2009. In a fascinating 2013 interview with Professor Brendan Stone from the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Mantel remembered her time studying in the city fondly, if not without its troubles.
After our marriage, we lived in a room over the garage of an alcoholic antiques dealer, our walls tastefully decorated with an array of moulds. This palace was too expensive, so we moved to a one-up one-down house, of which the rent was £1.78p per week (and it really wasn’t worth any more).
I have the warmest memories of the place and people, and when I’ve been back in recent years I’ve felt people have been just as friendly. The University looked after me when my health broke down. I scrambled my way to a degree; it wasn’t ideal, and I still dream about those days. Part of my psyche is still back there, taking an exam I’m never going to pass.