The gaping hole in Sheffield's regeneration
Plus, find out about the Steel City's answer to Moriarty
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
There is lots of development going on in Sheffield — but one space remains stubbornly difficult to regenerate. If you’ve ever walked out of Sheffield station you’ll have noticed a vast vacant plot to your left which has lain empty for almost 20 years. Now, new plans to utilise the space are finally in the offing. But are they what Sheffield needs? And do they have a chance of succeeding where so many others have failed?
As well as that, we have a great picture of Norfolk Heritage Park, a piece about the disputed neighbourhoods of Sheffield, and a talk about infamous Victorian outlaw Charlie Peace.
Could your business or organisation support The Tribune? We’re now offering discounted group memberships and the opportunity to sponsor these briefings. Good for your organisation, and good for local journalism. Find out more here.
Catch up and coming up
Our bombshell weekend read by Victoria posed a deceptively simple question with a very complicated answer. What is going on at Kommune? You can still read that piece here.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 1,725 paying members. In the first, Dan looked into the Sheffield tradition of Cakin’ Night, an ancient precursor to Trick or Treat which died out as the juggernaut of American-style Hallowe’en took over. And in the second, we spoke to XL Bully owners ahead of the government’s ban who say their dogs should not be punished for the crimes of irresponsible owners. An extract from that second piece is below.
Bruno is a bit wary at first, but not aggressively so. His demeanour is, if anything, shy. He doesn’t bark or growl the entire time I’m there. Janine invites me to sit on the sofa and Bruno quickly hops on in between us. A few seconds later he starts nuzzling my face. I’m aware of course of his size and physical power, but everything about Janine gives me the impression she’s a very responsible owner. If she’s not worried, I figure there’s no reason I should be.
Next week we’ll send out two more including a look at how the resignation of eight Labour councillors will affect the way Sheffield City Council works, and another about why only £3m of the £37m in Levelling Up funding the authority was awarded in 2021 has been spent. To help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield based on subscriptions rather than clickbait and endless stories about celebrities, please subscribe using the button below. It costs just £1.34 a week or 23p a day if you pay for 12 months up front (£70).
Editor’s note: Big stories like the one about Kommune at the weekend take a lot of work. Victoria has been working on it for well over a month and spoke to 15 people to put it all together. After meticulous fact-checking, the last part of the process is getting the whole thing checked by a lawyer — and they don’t come cheap. If we are to carry on doing stories like this, we need your support. Please become a member of The Tribune today.
The big picture: Autumn leaves 🍂
Thanks to Sheffield-based photographer Snowduster Studio for letting us use this superb picture of Norfolk Heritage Park. To view more of their photos, see their Instagram page.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say a typical westerly autumnal regime for the week ahead, with dry and brighter periods interspersed with blustery showers or longer spells of rain.
Monday 🌦 A cool start gives way to a mostly dry morning. Any showers look more likely to affect a wider area during the afternoon and evening. Highs of 12°C.
Tuesday 🌦 Staying breezy with another autumnal mix of bright sunshine and scattered blustery showers from the west. Highs of 12°C.
Wednesday ☔ A dry start with early brightness gives way to thickening cloud and outbreaks of rain. This clears close to nightfall with suppressed highs of 10°C. Windy.
Thursday 🌦 With the occlusion clear, the breezy and showery regime returns with a changeable mix for most. Feeling rather cool day and night with 10°C the high.
Friday ⛅️ While the shower risk remains, current model guidance shows them to be more isolated, so fingers crossed for a drier day! Still chilly with 10°C the high again.
Outlook: Signs of a dry and bright start to the weekend, if a little chilly. Milder but likely more unsettled by the time we reach Sunday, as the low to the west moves in.
The big story: The gaping hole in Sheffield’s regeneration
Top line: A vast plot of land outside Sheffield railway station which has been left unused for the last 20 years could soon be used again. What do you think we should build there?
The modern day Sheaf Square was created in 2006. The Cutting Edge sculpture and fountains are the first thing that thousands of people who visit Sheffield by train see and are widely seen as a big positive for the city. However, save for the odd funfare, a large plot at the southern end of the site has been left vacant since the demolition of Sheaf House in 2005. In that time there have been several proposals to fill the space including a unique Scarborough Group project nicknamed the “McCabe Pyramid”, a HS2 station and Channel 4’s new northern base — but none have got off the ground.
The site was to be a key part of the Sheaf Valley Masterplan, a £1.5 billion plan for how the area around the railway station should develop over the next 10-15 years.
However, since the council shelved parts of that idea in 2021 (including redirecting the ring road around the back of the station), the current status of the plan is unclear.
The site is currently owned by London Continental Railways (LCR), an arm’s length government company which works to “unlock development and regeneration opportunities across the UK’s network of railway stations and their surrounding land”. The land is also the only Homes England site in Sheffield, meaning it could be used to alleviate the city’s dire housing shortage. However, The Tribune has learned that LCR has been persuaded that it is more suitable for offices and is working with the city council to develop a new masterplan.
There could be problems with the site, however. Sometimes when a brownfield site is left undeveloped for long enough it can become partly reclaimed by nature and form something known as a “mosaic habitat”. This is believed to have happened to the Sheaf Square plot meaning that any future development will need to produce a 10% “biodiversity net gain” on site or invest in biodiversity schemes elsewhere, further complicating regeneration plans.
Another complicating factor could be air quality — the area around the station has some of the highest levels of nitrogen oxide pollution in the city.
Sheffield’s new Clean Air Zone has helped but until the Midland Main and Hope Valley lines are fully electrified, diesel fumes will remain a problem.
The previous masterplan hasn’t been discarded entirely. The Tribune has been told that one thing that is likely to be kept is the new pedestrian bridge over the railway line. Since the footbridge was closed, anyone wanting to walk or cycle from one side of the train station to the other has to use the concourse, meaning ticket barriers can’t be installed. The Sheaf Valley Masterplan envisaged a huge pedestrian and cycle bridge linking South Street Park with Howard Street.
Bottom line: You might think a prime site in Sheffield city centre wouldn’t have lain empty for so long. But as so often, deciding on an idea and then putting together the financing for it has proved difficult. The area around the station is one of the main gateways to the city for hundreds of thousands of people every year and, while Sheaf Square is welcoming, the vacant plot sticks out like a sore thumb. Hopefully, this latest plan will come to fruition and the vast empty space in Sheffield city centre will be put to use once more.
What do you think should be built on the vacant plot at Sheaf Square? Please let us know in the comments and we’ll share the best ones in a future newsletter.
Our media picks 🎧
Sheffield embraces its rich heritage while Birmingham shoots itself in the foot 🏢 We’ve written a lot in The Tribune about the importance of reusing buildings if possible rather than knocking them down. In this piece in Building Design, Sheffield’s successful repurposing of Park Hill, Castle House and now Cole Brothers is contrasted with Birmingham’s plan to demolish the 1962 Smallbrook Ringway Centre in favour of a “banal high rise building”.
Settling on consistent neighbourhoods in Sheffield 🗺️ A fascinating piece in Tribune member Tom French’s newsletter about a new attempt to map Sheffield’s neighbourhoods. Previous surveys have found about 150 areas, although the council recently created one with just 100. But this is not merely a cartographic exercise. French and his co-author Simon Duffy say that settling on an agreed list could help communities find better ways of working together.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to do what I do” 📸 A great interview in Exposed magazine with Sheffield photographer Rob Nicholson about what he loves about living and working in the city. 20 years ago, Rob was a key player in the vibrant music scene that resulted from the meteoric rise of Arctic Monkeys (his brother Andy was in fact the band’s first bassist). Two decades on, he is now the co-founder of Pedalo, a successful city photography business.
Home of the week 🏡
This two-bedroomed Millhouses mews cottage sits within stunning communal gardens and was originally part of a stable block which dates from 1895. It is on the market for £350,000.
Tribune Tips: If you want to tell us about a story or give us some information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always happy to speak to people off the record in the first instance, and we will treat your information with confidence and sensitivity.
A death in the family?
The Dispatch, our new sister title in Birmingham, continues to go from strength to strength. At the weekend they published a fantastic piece about the Wolverhampton Express and Star’s recent sale to National World, the same company that runs the Sheffield Star. While it’s about a paper that most of you will never have read, the piece is really about local journalism and its importance to communities, and is well worth 10 minutes of your time.
Things to do 📆
History 📚 He has been described as Victorian England's most infamous criminal save Jack the Ripper. Charles Peace was a burglar, murderer, master of disguise and womaniser, who led a double life and whose career made him one of the star exhibits of Madame Tussauds. See where fact and legend combine in this illustrated talk by Ron Clayton at the Showroom Cinema on Tuesday, 7 November. The 90-minute talk, which costs £5, begins at 7.30pm.
Theatre 🎭 Starting on Tuesday, 7 November at the Lyceum is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, a brand-new production based on the best selling crime novel of all time. Ten strangers are lured to a solitary mansion off the coast of Devon. When a storm cuts them off from the mainland, the true reason for their presence on the island becomes horribly clear. Tickets are priced £15-£45 and the show runs until Saturday, 11 November.
Science 💦 On Wednesday, 8 November, join Dr Nirali Joshi at the beautiful Sheffield Tap for a fun evening focusing on the most universal and vital hydrating fluid: water. As extreme heat episodes take hold globally, keeping people and cities hydrated is becoming ever more critical. The evening will include a pub quiz with prizes for the winners plus short talks by people researching access to drinking water. The two hour event is free and begins at 6pm.