‘We are returning to the 1800s’
Plus, the rest of your weekly briefing
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Of all the crises we face, the one affecting our housing system often seems to be the most intractable. It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the market is irreparably broken, but no one seems to have a solution to the twin problems of sky-high house prices on the one hand and poor protection for renters on the other. As a brand new housing policy committee made up of councillors from across the political spectrum prepares to hold its first meeting, we look at some of the issues they face and how they might address them.
We also have all our usual reads, recommendations and updates including a great new mural in the city centre and a house with stunning views in Brincliffe.
Catch up and coming up
Last week we sent out two newsletters to our growing band of 683 paying members. The first by David Bocking included a brilliant piece about the hugely controversial new “low traffic neighborhood” in Nether Edge and the second by me was an in-depth look at the contested heritage of Sheffield’s historic centre: Castlegate. An extract from that first piece is below.
Rachel Finnigan and her daughters are striding and scooter-ing down the hill. “I wasn’t convinced when I heard about it,” she tells me. “I live near the top of the road, and it actually feels much safer.” She’s witnessed crashes near her home in the past, but has already noticed there are fewer cars around. “It will be irritating when I want to go to the supermarket, but I’m willing to sacrifice that for a bit of a quieter neighbourhood.”
This week we’ll send out two more including one about a 140-year-old Sheffield love affair which has been preserved for posterity in a series of extraordinary letters. To get both of those, become a member of The Tribune today and help fund a new way of doing journalism in Sheffield.
Editor’s appeal: We are still operating The Tribune on a shoestring budget and with a very small team. To help us grow into the kind of newsroom that can do high-quality journalism here for years to come, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs just £1.34 a week if you pay upfront for the year.
30 years of The Forum
The Forum on Division Street has unveiled a colourful new mural to celebrate its 30th birthday. The popular bar and restaurant was first set up by businessman Kane Yeardley in 1992, with parent company True North Brew Co. going on to own 14 venues in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and Derbyshire. The mural has been created by Sheffield artist Rob Lee.
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say low pressure will stay close to the northwest through the week ahead, bringing a warming trend from the south but also a raft of showers, too.
Monday ☁ mainly cloudy with drizzle clearing during the morning. Limited brightness and cool with highs of 15°C.
Tuesday 🌥 becoming brighter and warmer with a chance of an afternoon shower. Highs an improved 19°C.
Wednesday 🌦 fronts bring widespread showers, with brief drier and brighter spells in between. highs of 19°C.
Thursday ⛅ a good chance of dry weather, though turning windier from the southwest as the day progresses. Highs of 20°C.
Friday 🌦 another changeable and windy day with some sun but also the threat of heavy and thundery showers developing. Highs of 20°C.
Outlook: Still the chance of showers heading into the weekend, but a better chance of staying dry as a NW/SE split develops. Highs close to average; 18-20°C.
The big story: ‘We are returning to the 1800s’
Top line: When Sheffield’s new housing policy committee meets for the first time this week, they will have a large in-tray of business to wade through. One of the main problems is the number of people being forced to live in substandard private rented accommodation.
A daunting task: A briefing due to be given to committee members on Thursday by director of housing and neighborhood services Janet Sharpe details the scale of the challenge. In it, she says the council is faced with “increasingly challenging standards in the private sector”.
A private sector stock condition survey estimated a minimum of £1 billion was needed to tackle “category one” hazards (classed as faults that could cause death, permanent paralysis, permanent loss of consciousness, loss of a limb or serious fractures).
Specific areas of poor housing in Sheffield which are in need of “focused attention” include Page Hall, Abbeydale, Sharrow and Burngreave. Selective licensing schemes which vet private landlords operate in both Page Hall and Abbeydale.
Raised in parliament: As reported recently by the local democracy reporting service, Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake spoke in parliament about this problem last month. In her speech, she said she had heard “horror story after horror story” from people in her constituency about mould, damp, exposed asbestos, broken appliances, rats and vermin. She continued:
“I have seen numerous cases of new or worsening asthma in children, formally recorded by doctors as likely to be linked to their living in mouldy or damp housing conditions. Other families have reported repeat infections. We are returning to the 1800s.”
Lack of affordable housing: People are being increasingly pushed into the private rented sector due to rising house prices, which in Sheffield are forecast to go up by 10% this year.
However, as recently pointed out by Crookes councillor Minesh Parekh, many developments being built in South Yorkshire contain very little affordable housing.
Of the 612 properties in three recent housing planning applications in Barnsley and Rotherham, just 84 of them were classed as being affordable (less than 15%).
More council houses: Many more people in Sheffield used to live in social housing, but over the last 40 years the council’s stock has been badly depleted as a result of the right to buy scheme. However, unlike many other local authorities, Sheffield council is increasing its housing stock again and has pledged to build more than 3,000 over the next 10 years.
Our take: The council’s new committee system is a chance for the city’s main political parties to come together to address the problems we face — none of which are more important than housing. While hugely ambitious housing projects like Park Hill and Gleadless Valley are no longer on the agenda, the committee’s nine members do still have policy levers that could make a real difference to people’s lives. Finding ways to increase the council’s housing stock and extending the selective licensing schemes to protect at-risk renters would be a good start.
Home of the week
This three-bedroomed Brincliffe stone townhouse has floor-to-ceiling windows throughout and a roof terrace with incredible views over Sheffield. It is on the market for £400,000.
Our favourite reads
An interesting piece by David Walsh in The Star about an old Oughtibridge paper mill that is being converted into a food hall. The former Spring Grove Paper Mill dates from 1834 but closed for good following the devastating floods of 2007. The food hall will be run by the same team behind the popular Cutlery Works venue in Neepsend.
Roger Quail’s quest to document every gig he’s ever been to continues with one of his own at an NME night in London. At the gig, which takes place at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London, Quail’s band The Box share the stage with JoBoxers (whose star shone briefly bright in the early 1980s) and a young black poet named Benjamin Zephaniah.
A nice obituary in The Guardian for former University of Sheffield academic Anthony Arblaster, who has died aged 84. Arblaster started as a journalist for the left-wing Tribune magazine before moving into academia. He went on to teach in Sheffield for 34 years, writing several books including one about politics in opera called Viva la Libertà!
Food heaven comes to Sheffield
The city centre was transformed over the weekend as the 10th Sheffield Food Festival rolled into town, bringing dozens of food and drink stalls as well as cooking workshops and street entertainment. The sun shone on Thursday and Friday and it was great to see the city buzzing again after two years of Covid.
Things to do
Art: Opening on Wednesday, June 8 at Yellow Arch Studios, Neepsend not Kelham is an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Sheffield-based artist Paul Allender. Paul grew up in Neepsend and currently works out of a studio in Parson Cross. The exhibition runs until Friday, June 24 and an opening event takes place on Friday, June 10 from 5.30pm-10.30pm.
Food and drink: For those who struggle to keep up with all the new places to eat and drink, Welcome to Sheffield have put together this invaluable list of all the newly opened bars, restaurants and takeaways in the city. The extensive list includes gourmet Division Street cookie shop Doughboy, Woodseats micropub The Boston Arms and Park Hill Indian 5Tara.
Tour: Sheffield Museums’ industry and metalwork expert Emma Paragreen will lead a special curator walk on Wednesday, June 8 (2.00pm-3.30pm), guiding a group around a selection of city sculptures and sights which showcase different metalwork processes. The walk begins at the steel fountain at Sheffield station and ends at Barker’s Pool. Tickets are £8.
Happy Pride Month!
Pride month has officially begun so we thought we’d share this wonderful picture of the Pinstone Street rainbow crossing by top Sheffield photographer the Steel City Snapper. If you haven't already read them, our pieces about Victorian gay rights activist Edward Carpenter and Sheffield’s first Pride demonstration are still available on our website.