Development in Sheffield is slow. It was recently announced that a building on Church Street may become a bar after standing empty for 15 years. The Friends of The Old Town Hall might reply that this is nothing. Their beloved building has languished for over two decades.

Developers are noted for getting planning permission but not going ahead. They blame the market in which, if it worked as capitalists believe, the offer price of unused buildings would drop until someone could afford to use them. This doesn’t happen for various reasons, including property speculators hoping for big profits, without a care for blighting our urban landscapes and leaving resources wasted.

Naturally, everyone blames local authorities. Sheffield City Council must feel stretched between ever-changing regulations, budget cuts, panics like the Grenfell Tower disaster, and sneaky incentives like central government money in exchange for city mayors. ‘Lack of investment’ is due to money flowing where it gets the greatest return. When investors finally pay attention to ‘improving’ somewhere, seeking approval from the authorities is a pain to them. But they hold the whip hand in one way, because they can legally challenge planning permission refusals. This must mean sleepless nights for Sheffield’s planners.

Into this mix steps Sheffield Property Association (S-PA). Formed last year, this is a group of property-focussed companies. Haven’t we already got the Local Economic Partnership (LEP) and Sheffield Chamber of Commerce? S-PA was advised by London’s Westminster Property Association, “the voice of property in central London”, whose annual dinners at the London Hilton are £250 per head, plus VAT and drinks. The S-PA was welcomed by Rob Murfin, Sheffield City Council’s Chief Planning Officer, who claims it will be a ‘critical friend’ to the Council. It’s a private sector drive to stir up investment, promising to make the city a more beautiful urban environment. If this doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling, maybe it’s because founders like Meadowhall owners British Land have shown little desire to, say, cut car pollution in the area.

The S-PA’s formation was revealed at annual property conference MIPIM, a four-day networking event on the French Riviera for discussion of deals to develop ‘global cities’ between “property players from all asset classes”. Sheffield City Council and Sheffield City Region sent ten attendees in 2014. For MIPIM 2018 next month, Sheffield City Region is sending its biggest ever delegation on a bespoke flight paid for by the massive Harworth Group. Let’s hope they get their money’s worth.

It’s hard to believe a group of ordinary people couldn’t come together in some sort of democratic meeting to decide how, or whether, development should proceed. After all, we live and work here. We want a city without derelict bits – healthy, sustainable, respecting our heritage. Coda Planning’s Adam Murray says the S-PA wants to be positive about the future. ”We don’t want to talk about the history of Sheffield,” he told the Sheffield Telegraph last month. Better not tell the Friends of The Old Town Hall…

sheffieldoldtownhall.co.uk | alt-sheff.org

SHARROW LANTERN CARNIVAL – LANTERN MAKING WORKSHOPS
Sats & Suns until 31 Mar | 1-5pm | Old Junior School, South View Rd
Sharrow Lantern Carnival is an annual treat of illuminated paper sculptures, music and fun. This year it’s on Sunday 1 April and the theme is ‘Monster Mash’. Lantern making workshops are running now until the day before the carnival and willing hands are welcome. Why not give it a try?
creativeaction.net

SHEFFIELD CLIMATE ALLIANCE MEETING
Tue 20 Feb | 7pm | Quaker Meeting House
Frackers are trying to drill around Sheffield at Marsh Lane, Harthill and Bramleymoor Lane, where INEOS restarted its planning application, so objections had to be repeated. If granted, they wouldn’t appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, preventing a full public inquiry. Sheffield Climate Alliance is helping to fight this threat. Their meetings are open to all.
sheffieldclimatealliance.net

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