Should Sheffield model itself on 'Manc-hattan?'
Plus, fancy going paddleboarding on the River Don?
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Today we ask whether the council’s ambitious plans to develop more housing in Sheffield city centre are at all realistic. We also have all our usual favourite reads and recommendations including the return of the brilliant Sheffielder blog and a “dog life drawing” class at the University of Sheffield Students’ Union.
Catch up and coming up
We hope you enjoyed our weekend read about how John Sweeney’s experiences of reporting in Sheffield help him see through what he called the “official bullshit” coming out of the Kremlin about the war in Ukraine. You can read that piece here.
Last week we sent two great newsletters to our 611 paying members. The first was a lovely piece by Martin Flynn about an American man who is bringing Basque Country-style cider to Sheffield. And the second was a major interview with the city’s director of public health Greg Fell two years on from the start of the pandemic. An extract from that piece is below:
“Everyone thought it would be flu,” says Fell. “But Covid was significantly more transmissible and we’ve never been quick enough.” It wasn't until the Prime Minister addressed the nation on March 23 that local authorities were even given the legal authority to impose a lockdown. Fell says that by then it was already probably two or three weeks too late. “But that’s a question for an inquiry,” he adds.
This week we’ll send two more including Dani’s visit to a greyhound training kennels in Rotherham, a review of a popular new Park Hill restaurant and a look at what the new South Yorkshire Mayor might be able to learn from our county neighbours in West Yorkshire. To get all our stories direct to your inbox or via the new app, subscribe using the button below.
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say it will be brighter at the start of the week, wet on Wednesday, and then more settled as we move towards the weekend.
Monday 🌤 Generally dry, bright and a little breezy with good spells of sunshine. Highs of 12-13C.
Tuesday ⛅️ Another dry day expected with lots of cloud but some bright spells, too. Highs of 12-13C once again.
Wednesday 🌧 A cloudier and less settled day will bring increasingly persistent rain eastwards. Cooler with highs of 10-11C.
Thursday and Friday 🌤 High pressure enters from the southwest, bringing increasingly dry and bright conditions for many. Highs of 12-14C.
Outlook: The high pressure looks set to build and settle to the east or north-east of the UK, with a fine and settled weekend likely and temperatures close to average. A risk of overnight frost and fog.
The big story: Should Sheffield model itself on 'Manc-hattan?'
Top line: Sheffield City Council last week announced a “strategic vision” for the city centre based on building thousands of new homes there over the next two decades. But there is still very little detail about where the huge sums of money required are going to come from.
Background: After a public consultation in January and February, global consulting firm Deloitte have now produced a City Centre Strategic Vision for Sheffield. It claims that the “foundation to success” will be to repopulate the city centre by building an extra 20,000 homes there by 2038.
The detail: The vision divides the city centre into six key neighbourhoods, and identifies how many new homes will be needed in each of them if the 20,000 goal is to be met:
Area One: Kelham Island, Neepsend, Philadelphia, Woodside (3,694 homes)
Area Two: Castlegate, West Bar, The Wicker, Victoria (1,890 homes)
Area Three: Cathedral, St Vincents, University of Sheffield (7,538 homes)
Area Four: Sheaf Valley, City Arrival, Cultural Industries Quarter (2,712 homes)
Area Five: Heart of the City, Division Street, The Moor, Milton Street, Springfield, Hanover Street (5,149 homes)
Area Six: London Road, Queens Road (571 homes)
Modelled on Manc-hattan? Over in Manchester, a strategy of attracting people back into the city centre to live in converted mills and new-build apartment blocks has been widely seen as a success over the past two decades.
New neighbourhoods have been created around former industrial areas and tens of millions of pounds in extra council tax revenue are now collected from residents.
Manchester’s city centre population shot up 149% between 2002 and 2015, and the number of jobs has almost doubled. Sheffield didn’t make the fastest-growing list.
What is holding us back? In order to make such a strategy work, private investors will need to be attracted to the city centre to build properties. But many are put off by the city’s historically low rental values.
So many student flats are built in Sheffield because they are the only thing that gives a rate of return that attracts pension funds with capital to invest.
The council has been trying to persuade developers to build a wider range of affordable accommodation in the city for some time with little success.
Wish list: The Tribune spoke to Carl Lee, a PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield. He said that the strategy contained some interesting ideas but came across as a bit of a “wish list”. And he added that — as with all aspirations of this scale — it was ultimately all about capital. He said:
There is no sense of how they are going to afford this. They say they want to get developers to pay using S106 money [community infrastructure levy] but that doesn’t bring in very much at all. It can pay for bits and pieces like Grey to Green but £10m doesn’t get you very far when it comes to infrastructure.
Bottom line: Until Sheffield solves the “Catch-22” of how to attract private investment with such low rental values, development in the city centre will remain exceptionally challenging. Carl Lee told us one way to break out of the conundrum would be to fund more social housing — but at the moment there isn’t the political will (or the money) to build on the scale that is needed.
Home of the week
This delightful two-bedroom detached stone cottage in a secluded part of Greenhill has a new kitchen and bathroom and separate garage. It is on the market for £225,000.
Our favourite reads
Brilliant city blogger Sheffielder has been quiet of late due to him breaking his finger before Christmas. Thankfully he’s back now and this week is looking at Banner Cross Hall, where another chapter in the grand old house’s history could be about to be written. Another update on the building’s secrets will follow on Tuesday.
Next Sunday will see the premiere of The Felling, a documentary about the Sheffield street tree scandal. Writing in the Yorkshire Post, BBC radio reporter Andy Kershaw (who reported on many of the incidents shown in the film himself) describes it as a “masterful tribute to the many people who were prepared to stand in harm’s way”.
An amazing story in the i about the “social robots” that are being used at Sheffield Children’s Hospital to reduce anxiety and stress in young patients. After a study found that dog MiRo and human-like robot Pepper could prove helpful in distracting even the shyest children, the hospital adopted an entire pack of Robodogs for use by their patients.
A piece in The Star reveals the 12 previously used so-called “brownfield” sites on which the council wants to build 2,836 homes. The 12 projects in Neepsend, Park Hill, Attercliffe, West Bar, Kelham Island, the Devonshire Quarter, Shirecliffe, Attercliffe and Norfolk Park will be partly funded by the government’s Brownfield Housing Fund.
A nice report on the BBC website on the “mass trespass” of Snake Pass by hundreds of cyclists which took place on Saturday. The road has been closed to cars since last month’s storms caused subsidence but last week it was also closed to cyclists by Derbyshire County Council. Lots of photos of what looked like a fun day were posted on Twitter.
Things to do
Event: A special “late” event at the Millennium Gallery on the art of science takes place on Thursday evening (March 17). The interactive talk is all about celebrating the beauty of the natural world including the prettiest pathogens, the brightest bacteria, the finest fossils, and the most magnificent minerals. All tickets are now sold but you can still walk up on the night.
Art: Dog Life Drawing returns to Coffee Revolution at the University of Sheffield’s Students’ Union on Wednesday for an evening of “tail wags, snuggles and pawsing”. Anyone can attend from beginner to expert and all materials will be provided. Tickets are priced £11 and include a cake and hot drink of your choice (only dogs involved in the drawing event are allowed).
Music: UK rap superstar Stormzy comes to Sheffield Arena on Friday evening (March 18) on his long-delayed “Heavy is the Head” tour. The shows were originally meant to take place in 2020 but were postponed several times due to the pandemic. If grime isn’t your scene, Music in the Round play Haydn, Dvorak and Brahms for piano at the Crucible on the same evening.
Festival of the outdoors
Sheffield’s annual festival of the outdoors is now underway with a huge array of activities planned during the month of March. This week these include the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival at the Showroom Cinema from Friday 18 to Sunday 20 and the Rab International Climbing Festival at Climbing Works on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20.
Also on this weekend is a special Pollen Market x FOTO at Grey to Green in Castlegate. As well as the usual plants, flowers, food and drink and entertainment there will also be a chance to take part in activities including paddleboarding, canoeing, guided walks and rides, skateboarding and orienteering.
The forgotten flood
Last Friday was the 158th anniversary of the Great Sheffield Flood, which is still one of the UK’s worst-ever man-made disasters. At least 240 people died and more than 600 houses were damaged when Dale Dyke dam burst as it was being filled for the first time, flooding large parts of the Don Valley with at least 140m cubic feet of water. The tragedy, which came just 12 years after a similar flood in Holmfirth claimed the lives of 81 people, led to widespread reform of regulations and practise in the construction industry.
While this year’s events weren't on the scale of 2014’s 150th anniversary, Sheffield historian Ron Clayton held a service of remembrance at Millsands on Friday at 12.30 to commemorate those who died. The beautiful painting above was posted on Twitter last week by journalist and author Brian Groom. Artist John Everett Millais was inspired by stories in the local press which reported that a child in its cradle had been washed out of a house. For a more supernatural take on the flood, see our piece from last year on the Gabriel Hounds.