Meadowhall: What focus on leisure activities could mean for future of iconic Yorkshire shopping centre

Meadowhall: What focus on leisure activities could mean for future of iconic Yorkshire shopping centre

A new leisure hall complex is to be built next to Meadowhall shopping center after Sheffield councilors gave the plans the go-ahead – despite unease over what the move would mean for the city center and other retail centres.

Earlier this week, Sheffield City Council’s planning committee gave the plans the green light by a majority vote of six to three. They were in favor of what is the third version of the proposals to be submitted in the last four years.

Initial plans were revised after the council said it would negatively impact the city center – which is in the midst of its own multi-million pound redevelopment called Heart of the City which itself is designed to shift away from reliance on shops to more on bars focus. , restaurants and housing.

The success of the leisure focus redevelopment is particularly vital for the town center following the closure of the John Lewis and Debenhams department stores.

Meadowhall shopping centre

But the newly approved plans for Meadowhall – which has long been accused of taking shoppers away from the town center – involve new cafes, restaurants and bars housed in a leisure hall which will be integrated into the southern end of the shopping centre.

It is also envisaged that the existing Vue cinema will be expanded and modernised, while there are longer term plans for outdoor adventure activities.

The proposal, which has been scaled back twice, includes an agreement to delay construction of the recreation hall until 2029 and other conditions.

This is to minimize the impact on both Sheffield and Rotherham, which also has plans to mix shopping and leisure. Rotherham Council was one of the objectors to the Meadowhall scheme over fears it could lure investors away from the Forge Island plans which are taking shape to build a hotel, cinema, restaurants and bars set in riverside gardens.

What the new Meadowhall leisure center could look like

At the planning hearing this week, Jamie Whitfield, a director of retail investment firm NewRiver, which co-owns The Moor in Sheffield city centre, described Meadowhall as “dominant in the region” and said that shops operating in the city center and Meadowhall is. has sales volumes that are five times higher in the center. In Manchester, sales volumes in the city center are equal to the Trafford Centre, he said.

He added: “This application seeks to significantly enhance the customer experience and increase length of stay, which will further enhance this dominance over Sheffield city centre.”

But David Bloy of Meadowhall’s owner British Land said: “Nationally, Meadowhall is known as a long-established regional shopping center and it is an important part of Sheffield’s economy and appeal.”

He said it employs more than 8,000 people, more than 94 per cent living in the Sheffield City Region, and accounts for almost 20 per cent of the city’s business rates.

“However, Meadowhall is over 30 years old and is dominated by retail units. The center needs investment, it needs to develop and it needs to attract more leisure and food and beverage operators to broaden the available offer and bring the center up to modern standards.”

He said restrictions on the plans would mean Meadowhall would complement the town center and other centers rather than compete with them. In addition to the seven-year delay, the council introduced a ‘no poaching’ agreement, meaning firms cannot close their operations in other local centers to move in. There are restrictions on the type of goods that can be sold in the new stores.

Meadowhall is itself a regeneration success story. Sheffield Council’s own website highlights how the site, formerly home to the East Hecla Works of Hadfields Ltd, was chosen “to help restore Sheffield’s industrial east end following the major changes in the steel and manufacturing industries of late 1970s and early 1980s which saw many firms closing, unemployment rising and land being left unused and abandoned”.

But the debate between councilors on the planning committee highlighted the mixed feelings that exist about the mall’s local dominance.

King Roger Davison said he thought there was “a bit of Mystic Meg” mixed in with figures cited in support of the scheme, including what extra value it would add to the city and how many jobs would be created. He added: “I like to see that no one benefits at the expense of anyone else. I’m sure some people are going to lose big.”

Coun Brian Holmshaw, who voted against the proposals, said there were too many uncertainties in the report about the possible effect on other centres. He also questioned whether British Land could meet its goal of completing the scheme with net zero carbon emissions.

He asked: “Why do we want to harm Sheffield’s economy at this time or in the future? Rotherham objects to this, and if Rotherham can stand up for its town centre, why can’t Sheffield?”

Coun Tom Hunt was concerned that Meadowhall’s impact on leisure plans in nearby shopping centers could be greater than stated, as there is nothing to stop existing shops becoming leisure facilities. He mentioned that the Ronnie O’Sullivan snooker shop would become Clubhouse, the first late-night licensed venue on Park Lane, with bowling, mini-golf, virtual reality darts and arcade games.

Coun Barbara Masters said she believed both centers could benefit each other due to easy access between the city center and Meadowhall.

But long-serving councilor Peter Price said the proposals reverted to the original concept for Meadowhall.

“I’m the only person here who was at the original presentation with Eddie Healey and Paul Sykes, where they came to the Labor Group and promised a major retail and leisure center to replace the derelict Hadfield works, and they delivered made this promise that it will not only be retail, but it will be leisure,” he said.

“They said a sports hall and a leisure pool and a theatre. They never fulfilled it, but we got the cinema as part of the thing, so it was always part of the original plan, and we welcomed it because it was some recreational facilities in the East End, which was virtually devoid of any kind of relaxation was. at all, so that’s why I welcome it.

“I am saddened by some of these negative reactions because Meadowhall is not only in competition with the city centre, it is in competition with Manchester Trafford Center and Leeds Arndale Centre, which all have much better leisure facilities in there, so families can go for a day shopping and taking their children and dropping them off, and that’s what I think Meadowhall lacks and has always lacked, that relaxation.

He added: “The city center is changing, just as Meadowhall is changing. Unless we keep up with this, we are going to lose.”

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