Our high streets have become a topic of much debate over recent years as the recession and the rise of online shopping have put increasing pressure on retailers.
However, despite these pressures, high streets remain a key part of the city and our everyday lives. The majority of our shopping is still done on the high street and there is a growing trend towards supporting locally-based small businesses where we can have a more intimate, bespoke shopping experience.
This applies in our neighbourhoods more than anywhere and Sheffield has always had a strong sense of local community across the many diverse areas of our city, with local neighbourhood high streets forming the very heart of the city's communities.
Every community will have a centre that acts as a focal point where people can come together. Centres will be a source of pride for local people and contribute to their sense of belonging in an area.
Local people and businesses will be able to get involved in improving and looking after their centres, talk to us and other agencies about what works and doesn't work and have a say on changes.
Spital Hill is the district centre for the surrounding neighbourhoods in Pitsmoor, Burngreave and Fir Vale. Retail within the centre is largely made up of small independent shops and restaurants, cafes and takeaways specialising in products that cater for a very diverse community.
The Successful Centres strategy for the area highlighted the importance of improving the appearance of the streetscape and public realm within the centre, as well as improving Ellesmere Green. These were 2 of the top priorities for the community.
A number of projects were delivered to achieve these aims. These included:
- public realm improvements from Tesco up to Ellesmere Green, including installation of some public art. This was part funded by monies from the new Tesco development
- a Local Growth Fund project enabled the continuation of improvements on and around Ellesmere Green and the adjacent shopping parade, creating an attractive new small park
- in November 2014, a major shop front improvement scheme started, which completed in June 2015, delivering cosmetic improvements to the front elevations of over 80 businesses in the area and producing a striking improvement to the street scene
In addition to the physical improvements there have also been a number of support packages provided, including:
- promotion of a clean and safe environment: creating a sense of local pride through clean-up days
- regular focus groups with local businesses and community organisations
- support, training and mentoring for existing and new independent businesses
Darnall is one of 5 district centres where we used funding from the New Homes Bonus to help deliver the Successful Centres strategy.
In July 2013, a pilot shop front improvement scheme was approved, with the aim of helping to address the poor environment in the area, which was one of the key issues identified in Darnall.
The scheme completed towards the end of 2014, helping to create an attractive centre that people can be proud of, encouraging further investment by the existing businesses through increasing confidence in the area and leading to potential new job opportunities.
The scheme formed an important part of a wider regeneration strategy for Darnall District Centre. Other initiatives included:
- an offer of training opportunities for traders and businesses
- large planters to introduce greenery into the centre
- Christmas lights for Darnall for the 2014-15 festive period, to enhance the attractiveness of the retail offer in the area. The lights were purchased outright for the centre to enable them to be used in the future by the traders
- road improvements as part of the Streets Ahead programme
The main outputs of the Hillsborough project included:
- developing a brand and marketing campaign
- small-scale public realm improvements
- development of a new car park that can also be used as a market space
The Hillsborough traders' group are now working independently, with support from the Central Area and Hillsborough library.
They have organised several different themed events which have all proved to be very successful and increased overall footfall and trade.
The true success of this project can be seen in the collective effort from the various public, voluntary and private organisations within Hillsborough, working together to provide a centre with a good selection of activities and services.
Hemsworth is a small local centre situated within Gleadless Valley. The project included:
- public improvements to enhance the appearance of the centre, including repainting works and the provision of planters
- positive activities for young people and the management of anti-social behaviour. This including a shutter arts project, where shop shutters were painted by local youths
- encouraging the occupation of vacant commercial units (all units are now filled)
Working in partnership with Gleadless Valley Forum, a community hub was developed with the vision of creating a central point to promote community cohesion.
The hub has proved a valuable legacy, providing a much-needed resource to the local community by offering affordable clothing and household items as well as a safe and friendly environment where people can meet and socialise.
In addition, it has also offered local residents volunteering opportunities, with the volunteers learning transferrable skills in retail, money management, food handling and communication.
Partnership working on this project has been an excellent example of cross-sector working.
The relationships developed with Gleadless Valley Forum brought considerable added value to the project, through voluntary resources and local knowledge to achieve a lot with a small amount investment.
Projects for Chapeltown comprised of a combination of support to the local businesses and economy, together with improvements:
- the 2 central roundabouts were improved with better planting
- 2 coal wagons were installed outside the Library, planted by Chapeltown In Bloom
- interpretation boards were installed
- financial support was provided to facilitate a Christmas market
- small improvements were carried out the market stalls
In Stocksbridge, all of the funding was used to improve the public area in front of Stocksbridge library, as this had been identified as a priority during previous consultation. This has provided a focal point for the centre.
Further funding was provided through the Local Growth Fund to reduce vacant units and carry out smaller improvements. These included:
- the cleaning and repainting of the shop canopy on the parade
- installation of new bollards to match the ones at the library
- Christmas lights
- grant funding provided to the Event Forum to purchase assets and facilitate markets and events. Several very successful markets have since taken place
- new signs to locate the free parking in the area
- working with local lettings agents to reduce vacant units, and installing 3-dimensional visuals on vacant windows
- facilitating a short-term pop-up shop
Other non-funded centres
Not all Centres are fortunate enough to secure funding from us, so we have also provided local support and assistance to some Centres where there has been no funding available.
This has enabled local traders to help establish themselves as a constituted group and to seek opportunities for funding elsewhere.
Sheffield Antiques Quarter
We have been working with the newly formed Sheffield Antiques Quarter since March 2012. Several of our teams have been involved, including the Regeneration Team, Enterprise Team and Creative Sheffield.
This project has no official funding and is self-funded by the traders. We offer them support, and have helped them to establish a working group alongside developing a brand, a very effective marketing campaign and organising themed events.
The Sheffield Antiques Quarter officially launched on 25 November 2012 with a fantastic vintage market that showcased all of the unique and diverse qualities of the Quarter. The event was a huge success, with over 500 people in attendance.
The Quarter continues to raise its profile through bigger and better events and they are working hard to become recognised as an official tourist destination.
We supported the Banner Cross traders with a successful application for a £10,000 grant from Mary Portas Funding.
This funding has been used to support local markets and events, provide Christmas lighting and provide planted troughs to the shop fronts.
In addition, we helped to facilitate:
- approval for a Traffic Regulation Order to be implemented along the main high street to free up parking spaces
- the launch of a Totally Locally campaign, encouraging people to shop locally.
Millhouses traders' group is a self-funded group of independent traders. We have provided advice and support to help them establish and formalise the group. We also provided some assistance to help them develop a brand and marketing plan.
Millhouses traders' groups have been working independently to organise events that have been very popular with the local community. This is a good example of traders working together with limited means to raise the profile of the Centre and try to increase footfall.
Sharrow London Road
A Shop Front Scheme for independent businesses on London Road is now well underway, aiming to combat perceptions that the area is 'shabby and run-down'.
The scheme is similar in principle to previous Successful Centres work in Darnall and Spital Hill in that it offers cosmetic work to the frontages of properties but on a larger scale on London Road, encompassing improvements to well over 100 properties.
The scheme began in March 2016, with the programme of work split into 9 phases. The first two phases are nearing completion, and the whole scheme is expected to complete in early 2017.
Alongside the shop front work, we are also supporting the newly formed London Road and Area Business Forum, providing a vehicle for local traders and business people to combine their efforts and work in partnership with other local stakeholders and groups to achieve a lasting legacy of positive change for the Sharrow London Road District Centre.