Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Sheffield kicks off city-wide conversation about its future

Citizens are being invited to share their views on a new plan that could guide the city's aims and ambitions for decades to come.

Ebun oluwole QOCYH Irxiz Q unsplash
Ebun Oluwole on Unsplash.

Sheffield citizens are being invited to share their views on the latest version of a new plan that aims to tackle some of the biggest challenges the city is likely to face over the coming decades.

Organisations including the Council, both universities and Voluntary Action Sheffield are co-ordinating work to design a new set of City Goals, working with Sheffield residents to decide what they should be.

Everyone in the city is now being invited to share their views on the latest draft of the goals (version three) by completing an online survey. There will also be in-person workshops across the city over the coming months to involve as many communities as possible in the process.

At Now Then, we believe that working together to create shared goals, ambitions and new narratives is vital to building a better Sheffield for all of us – that's why we've outlined the proposed goals in full below.

Why we need a set of goals

The aim of the project is to help guide the city as it tackles the multiple and intersecting crises that we are likely to face, along with other cities across the UK and around the world, between now and 2035.

These include adapting to the increasingly visible effects of climate breakdown, including the risk of more frequent and severe flooding in the city, and more frequent incidents of extreme heat in the summer.

Other challenges include the long-term effects of the cost-of-living crisis, such as permanently higher energy costs, and the growing crisis facing the whole of the UK around the availability of social care.

Many researchers are now referring to the complex web of catastrophic events and crises that will become an increasingly common feature of day-to-day life as the 'polycrisis'.

Co-ordinators of the project say that the City Goals "aren’t meant to offer solutions to the problems we face, but instead serve as Sheffield’s ‘North Stars’ for where we’re trying to get to."

"They provide a direction of travel that allows anyone who cares about Sheffield to be a part of building a city that learns from its past, addresses challenges in its present, celebrates its people and nurtures their future."

The idea behind the project is that local government, business, community organisations and individual citizens will be able to work towards the long-term goals together, instead of just being an internal milestone for the council.

The goals are not designed to be owned by any one organisation, group or person. Instead, while there will be "torchbearers" leading the project, the ambition is for the goals to be something that everyone in the city "owns and stewards" together.

What the goals are

The latest draft is the result of a process that involved over 28 "deep listening" workshops. These yielded 4,000 individual opinions on what should be in the goals, in addition to over 1,500 responses to a previous online survey.

Over 70 people working in dozens of organisations in the city then collated this information over the course of three half-day workshops in August, turning them into a set of 18 individual goals grouped around "six stories we want to be able to tell in 2035".

Division street shops bunk
Rachel Rae Photography

The first of these is about building a creative and entrepreneurial Sheffield, "where we all have opportunities to invent, make, create and build in ways that grow shared prosperity, create jobs and enrich our communities and ourselves."

The three goals below aim to address the fact that Sheffield has a lower rate of business start-ups, lower business density and fewer high-growth businesses than many of the UK's other big cities.

  • Goal #1: We build a just, diverse and creative local economy that attracts talent and investment while giving everyone the opportunities they need to thrive.
  • Goal #2: We have access to the skills, resources and training we need to pursue our curiosity and develop new ideas that benefit ourselves and others.
  • Goal #3: We enable artists, musicians, makers and creatives to thrive, by sharing and learning from one another, as part of an enriching cultural economy.

Benjamin elliott DM Zrdlt LP7g unsplash
Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash.

The second story aims to build a green and resilient Sheffield, "where we all act faster on the climate and environmental crisis, prepare for a changing future, and prioritise the health and wellbeing of our city's people and nature."

With its five rivers Sheffield is unusually vulnerable to flooding, and the government predict winter rainfall in the city will increase by 14% from 2009 to 2050, with 6,040 properties expected to be at risk.

At the same time, in some areas of the city rates of depression are 40% higher than the national average, and the powerful link between mental health and access to green space is now well understood by researchers.

  • Goal #4: We foster and grow businesses, organisations and local initiatives that look after people, place and planet.
  • Goal #5: We adapt our economy and city to a changing climate, restore our relationship with nature and safeguard it for future generations.
  • Goal #6: We invest in our wellbeing and mental health, and work with nature to create better, more resilient places and communities.

Fir vale shops 2
Rachel Rae Photography

The third aim is to create a Sheffield of thriving communities, "where we all belong to welcoming, cohesive communities that care for one another, help us live safe and fulfilling lives and share equitably in the city's success."

This speaks to the extreme inequality in the city – while overall the city is one of the 20% most deprived council areas in the UK, it also contains some neighbourhoods that rank in the top 1% most affluent in the country. At the same time, one in four children in the city live in poverty.

  • Goal #7: We benefit from vibrant, creative, accessible and diverse public spaces across all of our neighbourhoods and communities.
  • Goal #8: We're able to influence what happens in our neighbourhoods, and shape our local economy around fairness, equity & wellbeing.
  • Goal #9: We're able to embed strong and caring relationships that bridge divides across generations, neighbourhoods and communities.

City centre tram stop trams supertram
Rachel Rae Photography

The fourth area of focus is in moving towards a connected Sheffield, "where we all have opportunities to form lasting, positive relationships in our neighbourhoods and across the city, through technology, great transport and common causes."

As a result of the government's disastrous privatisation policy in the 1980s, Sheffield's buses are seen by passengers as among the worst in the country, with users complaining about poor reliability and isolated communities.

Digital connectivity is also a problem in the city – during the pandemic, the attainment gap between the most disadvantaged and least disadvantaged pupils in Sheffield grew, with the most disadvantaged less likely to have access to the internet or a quiet place to work.

  • Goal #10: Everyone has quality access to people, culture, nature and services no matter where they live or background they come from.
  • Goal #11: Everyone is able to safely and easily move around our neighbourhoods, across our city and out into the wider world.
  • Goal #12: We have access to the digital & physical infrastructure we need to work together to solve shared problems and make positive choices.

Spital hill shops 6
Rachel Rae Photography

The fifth story for 2035 talks of a caring and diverse Sheffield, "where all our voices are heard equally, and we feel the respect and celebration of each other's histories, heritage and cultures across our city."

Although Sheffield is widely celebrated as a city of many cultures, and became the UK's first City of Sanctuary for refugees in 2007, a recent report by the Race Equality Commission found there is still a long way to go to end discrimination and reduce racial wealth gaps. The laudable aim to become an "anti-racist city" still feels a long way off.

  • Goal #13: We have diverse leadership that is trustworthy, effective and inspiring, putting inclusion and diversity at the heart of decision-making.
  • Goal #14: We are honest with each other about the challenges we face, and are brave enough to find common ground and try new things out together.
  • Goal #15: We continuously strive to live, play and work free from racism & prejudice, with zero tolerance for inequalities, stigma and discrimination in any corner of our lives.

Walkley beeches of walkley butchers deli 2
Rachel Rae Photography

The final set of goals work towards a Sheffield for all generations, "where old, young and future generations bridge divides, are hopeful about the future and can flourish today, regardless of background, free from poverty and oppression."

By 2034, it's expected that nearly one in five people living in Sheffield will be over 65, meaning there will be a higher demand for services for older people in the city. At the same time, as a result of austerity, spending on services for young people in Sheffield is 32% lower now than it was in 2015.

  • Goal #16: We make long-term decisions that address the climate breakdown and technological advancements young people face now and will inherit in the future.
  • Goal #17: We invest in children and young people, providing them with a strong start to life with healthy, secure homes and inspiring places to learn, play and lead.
  • Goal #18: We support everyone to age well, with dignity and control over the care they receive and where they receive it.

The consultation on the third draft of the Sheffield City Goals is open now. The final set of goals is set to be published in the first half of 2024.

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

More News & Views

More News & Views