‘Knocking down John Lewis is madness’
Plus, the rest of your weekly briefing
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Today we have updates on the John Lewis building and the rapidly changing Covid-19 situation. We also feature an interesting report about the dangers of amateur journalists, and recommend a Christmas classic at the Showroom.
Lots of you seemed to love our weekend read about the 1990s documentary Tales from a Hard City. You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two stories to our members: a worrying piece about a Sheffield far-right activist with links to neo-Nazi groups and a look back at the story of a city hotel which was destroyed in the Blitz.
This week, we’ll send two more, including one about what it’s like to be a Chinese student in Sheffield. To get both those and help fund a news source that will serve Sheffield for years to come, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs less than £1.40 a week if you pay for a year.
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say low pressure initially brings milder air in from the south and rain from weather fronts. Towards midweek, a large high pressure cell to the south influences more as it trundles northwards leading to widespread dry weather. A risk of frost where skies clear, though perhaps a greater risk of mist and fog under the high pressure by week's end.
Monday 🌧 a waving weather front stretching SW-NE across England brings cloud and rain, turning persistent by the afternoon. Light winds and mild with highs of 10°C.
Tuesday ☁ weather fronts lose interest but extensive cloud is likely to be left behind, only occasionally breaking. A risk of drizzle over the hills, or in thicker cloud. Highs of 9°C.
Wednesday 🌥 cloud breaks up better by midweek, with a mild and generally dry day expected. A cold front to the north may threaten some cloud/rain, but it is likely to stay to our north. Highs of 10°C.
Thursday 🌫 less certain due to the potential for stubborn low cloud and murk under our high pressure. If it clears, it'll be fine and bright, but there's potential for it to hang around all day. Highs of 8°C, a few degrees less under any persistent fog.
Friday 🌫 a similar story, with the 'luck of the draw' high pressure either providing bright spells after a murky start, or keeping us dull under the low cloud. A cooling trend establishing either way. Highs of 6°C.
Outlook: the cloud issues potentially continuing into the weekend. Either way it is looking dry and settled with light winds, if rather dull under any low cloud. Temperatures will be close to the average, between 5-8°C generally, with the ongoing potential for frost, mist and fog under any nighttime clear skies.
The big story: ‘Knocking down John Lewis is madness’
Top line: Knocking down the former John Lewis building and replacing it with a public square is reportedly under consideration. But in the midst of a climate crisis, is that really the best use of resources?
Background: According to a report in The Star, “place making” consultancy Fourth Street say fully refurbishing the building would cost £70m, while demolishing it and replacing it with a world-class public square to rival Las Ramblas in Barcelona would cost just £15m. John Lewis last week agreed to pay the council £5m for closing the store 10 months into a 20 year lease.
The consultancy say their preferred option would be to demolish and replace the building with a new £40m block of flats and offices on the southern portion of the site, where the building's car park is currently situated.
But the report claims civic leaders and stakeholders have a “noticeable preference to clear the city centre of such a large building of relatively little architectural or heritage merit, that detracts more than it adds to the urban environment”.
Embodied carbon: But as The Tribune has reported before, reusing old buildings is now considered a far better use of our planet’s limited resources than demolition. The University of Sheffield’s Urban Flow Observatory has calculated that there are 4,300 tonnes of so-called “embodied carbon” in the John Lewis building, the equivalent of 4,000 flights to New York, 17,000 trips by car from Land’s End to John O’Groats or running one oven for 800 years. All this would be lost if it was demolished.
Apples and oranges: We spoke to Charles Gillott from the University of Sheffield who is currently studying for a PhD in sustainable building. He doesn’t think the comparison of £70m for retaining the building and £15m for replacing it with a square is fair. If refurbished, the building would provide 14,500m2 of floorspace, which could be used for any combination of retail, housing, leisure or offices. He told The Tribune:
We’re in a climate crisis and we can't afford to be wasting large and highly adaptable buildings with huge embodied carbon footprint. We need to be seeing the building as an opportunity to generate the space we need at a reduced carbon and financial cost, rather than as a burden. 14,500m2 of floorspace for that cost is a steal compared with new build.
VAT rules: Gillott also told us that current value added tax rules offer developers perverse incentives to demolish rather than reuse buildings. If VAT for refurbishments was zero rated as it is for certain types of new builds, then the bill would be substantially lower than £70m.
Our view: The departure of John Lewis was a huge blow to Sheffield, but it also presented the city with a great opportunity. Reusing the building would emphasise Sheffield’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis, whereas demolishing it is the cheapest and least imaginative of the options on the table. As Danielle Abbey concluded in the Urban Flows Observatory report which crunched the numbers on embodied carbon at John Lewis:
It is time to stop wasting the Earth’s finite resources and use retrofit to its fullest potential. Sheffield’s John Lewis building is the perfect opportunity to do just this.
Cases: Sheffield’s Covid case rate — the number of new positive cases per 100,000 people over seven days — currently stands at 308.4, 175 cases or 10.7% up on last week. The England average is 507.7, 9.6% up on seven days ago.
Hospitals: There are currently 88 patients in Sheffield’s hospitals being treated for Covid-19, a fall of 22 from last week. 6 of these patients are on ventilation, a fall of eight from last week. Three deaths linked to the virus have taken place in the last seven days.
Vaccines: 181,813 booster jabs have now been given out in Sheffield, equating to 33.9% of those aged 12 and over. Anyone in England over 18 can now get a booster if their second vaccine was more than three months ago.
Rules: People in England are now being advised to work from home if they can, bringing us in line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Covid passes will be required to get into nightclubs and other large venues from Wednesday.
New variant: Three cases of Omicron have now been confirmed in Sheffield. The variant is much more transmissible, although it’s too soon to say whether it will cause more serious illness. However, even if it is not more deadly, policymakers are worried the increase in transmissibility could overwhelm the NHS.
Vaccine escape: Most worryingly, the vaccines seem to offer less protection against the new variant, with two doses of both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer providing much lower levels of protection against Omicron when compared with Delta. Boosters are thought to offer greater protection against serious illness.
Home of the week
This stunning three-bedroom Victorian family home in Grenoside is hidden away on a private road and has a huge rear garden. It is on the market for £475,000.
Our favourite reads
In a similar vein to our recent members’ piece about Instagram vigilantes, Now Then have an interesting piece about Sheffield Online, a Facebook group with a huge membership but which seems to pay little heed to ethical reporting or the moderation of comments. Reporter Sam Gregory says the page is rife with racist abuse and can give readers a false impression of the prevalence of crime.
An interesting story in The Star about continuing delays to the court process. Defendant Bilal Baz was arrested in November 2019 and has been remanded in custody ever since. By the time he stands trial on charges of wounding with intent in May 2022, the 26-year-old will have been in custody for 32 months. The Tribune reported on similar delays to the judicial process back in June.
This piece from a few years ago was reshared over the weekend by the Sheffield Reading Twitter account. In the morning of December 13, 1940, after the first night of the Blitz, the central library on Surrey Street played a key role in getting the city back on its feet. As well as advice and support, it was decided to keep the lending library open as it would be “good for morale if people had books to read”.
“Adults-only” crazy golf club opens
We mentioned the imminent arrival of “adults-only” crazy golf venue Glory Holes in October and now the new owners have fully moved in and opened their High Street venue. Judging by their fawning coverage, The Star and Yorkshire Live seem keen on the new nightspot, but The Tribune remains unconvinced.
Things to do
Politics: The four Labour candidates for Mayor of South Yorkshire have now been announced and tonight there is a chance to hear from one of them about his plans for a Green New Deal. Former Sheffield councillor Lewis Dagnall will be talking to Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome tonight (Monday, December 13) from 7pm. To access the free session click here.
Art: Joe Scarborough is one of Sheffield’s most beloved artists and on Thursday, December 16, he will be speaking at a special event at the Town Hall in aid of the Sheffield Hospitals Charity. As well as getting a chance to hear Joe talk about his life and art, there will also be festive stalls, mulled wine and mince pies and a raffle. Tickets are £10 and are available from the Lords Mayor’s Charity Shop at Crystal Peaks or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Film: Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life is everyone’s favourite Christmas film (ok, it’s my favourite Christmas film) and from Friday, December 17 all the way up until Christmas Eve you have a special chance to see it on the big screen at the Showroom cinema. Also showing as part of the Christmas at the Showroom season is many other people’s favourite festive season movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Music: The Piccadilly Sinfonia, an orchestra made up of some of the UK’s best young musical talent, come to Sheffield Cathedral on Saturday, December 18 for a special candlelight performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto, Corelli’s Christmas Concerto and Pachalbel’s Canon plus Vivaldi’s classic Four Seasons violin concerto performed in its entirety. Tickets priced £19 are still available.
Letters from readers
Seriously impressed by the content and also quality of writing, keep up the great work. (Three performers in search of stardom in ’90s Sheffield), John Mounsey
Excellent article The Tribune is getting better and better! (Three performers in search of stardom in ’90s Sheffield), Mark Gamsu
This makes for awful reading that these people are around the city and in our midst. Please continue to expose their real agenda. (The ‘Steel City Lad’ with ties to a banned neo-Nazi organisation), LRoper
Saw this play at the Crucible a few years ago. It was very touching, the acting was superb. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. (Myth, memory and the Marples Hotel), Jojuem