Attercliffe has a rich history – there are ‘loads of diamond stories out there’, says David Slater. Here the director of Spaces Sheffield kicks off a new regular feature and shares with unLTD how the ‘place that made Sheffield can indeed play a huge part in bringing the good times back’.
Attercliffe was the forgotten district for many years – but refused to die.
There has always been something going on and, despite the bad press, Sheffield’s East End has never stopped ‘working’.
It was the high street and the community that suffered the most and the scrap yards and sex industry did the area no favours.
By 2004 Spaces Sheffield had begun investing in the Lower Don Valley and became key stakeholders in the Attercliffe district. But Sheffield City Council were unable to support plans for a renaissance at that point, despite producing the Attercliffe Action Plan a few years later in 2010. The Action Plan was, and remains, a good plan – it simply sat filed under Z while the Council oversaw the redevelopment of the city centre.
The turning point came in 2013 when the Don Valley Stadium was demolished to mixed reaction.
Richard Caborn had been sports minister and was instrumental in bringing the Olympics to London. He had also been involved in the World Student Games in Sheffield in 1991.
As the stars aligned and Sheffield could no longer afford to keep the Don Valley Stadium (DVS) Richard was inspired to tell the world that, out of the ashes of the DVS, a world class park of excellence was going to emerge.
He put together a superb team and together they set about building the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park – the only venue outside London to bear the name ‘Olympic’.
Richard’s vision was for Sheffield to build a world class Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) as the focal point of a vast mixed-use district. This would then act as a catalyst for regeneration and complement the work done by the Attercliffe stakeholders’ group and the Council and its partners.
In 2021 the Olympic Legacy Park is home to the AWRC – a college, school, and university campus.
And more is to come. It is an incredibly exciting time, and Spaces Sheffield are proud to be part of this amazing transformation happening before our eyes.
It’s off the scale and has attracted the attention of high-profile businesses, developers and investors, as well as capturing the imagination of the Attercliffe community, past and present.
There is so much going on it is impossible to get the full journey into one edition so we will be giving regular updates to unLTD readers in the coming months in this showcase feature.
A legacy of economic regeneration
David Hobson has stepped down after seven years as Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park project director. Here he looks back on how the legacy of London 2012 means Attercliffe is no longer a ‘forgotten’ part of the city.
It’s incredible how fast things can change. When I stepped into the role of project director of Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park seven years ago, Don Valley Stadium had just been demolished and people had all but forgotten about Attercliffe.
The site had become overgrown, covered in buddleia, and had issues with crime and anti-social behaviour.
It’s taken a significant amount of dedicated effort, vision, shared passion and commitment to reverse that perception, but we have. We are, uniquely, delivering a real Olympic legacy of economic regeneration, education and new skills, research and innovation and whole population health and wellbeing gains.
As we have seen from events like the Bears of Sheffield, junior parkrun and Beat the Street, the local community are excited to be a part of the Park. And that includes investors.
Scarborough Group International is set to deliver more than £200m worth of investment on the Park which promises to develop a world-class hub for health and wellbeing building on the investments to date in the Oasis Academy, UTC and Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre.
This likely wouldn’t have been possible without the interest driven by our work bringing new developments to Attercliffe.
For example, I wrote the funding application for £14m to build the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) alongside Professor Steve Haake from Sheffield Hallam University, which is now working on ground-breaking research into the impact of long-COVID.
We also received £5m from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for the landscape, that set a new benchmark for the area with a quality of landscape matching the city centre.
Our landscape architects Ares beat King’s Cross to win the Architect Journal Award for Landscape Design.
The Park also plays an instrumental part in delivering a sporting legacy for Sheffield as the only Olympic legacy site outside of a host city in the world – an agreement that has just been renewed with the British Olympic Association for the next five years.
I don’t think many people watching Tokyo 2020 on TV at home will realise more than 50 of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes competing from Team GB trained in the English Institute of Sport Sheffield on Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
I’m so proud to have played an instrumental role with Richard Caborn and Claire Fretwell in laying the foundation for an exciting future for Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park and now to handover to Dr Chris Low.
As the brains behind the AWRC’s wellbeing accelerator programme, which raised £900k from Research England, Chris Low is equipped with the academic background to develop a world-class health and wellbeing research eco-system.
In time, I hope people won’t think of Attercliffe as a ‘forgotten’ part of the city, but will see it for what it truly is – somewhere for people to work, live and play.
In the centre of ‘exciting rejuvenation’
Partner and head of commercial property, Ian Osborn, explains to unLTD why Wosskow Brown Solicitors have been proud to call Attercliffe home since being founded in 1989.
Christmas 1979 was the end of an era, when The John Banner Department Store closed.
Once a glamorous department store in the bustling streets of industrial Attercliffe, the John Banner Building that once housed Sheffield’s first escalator was a shell of its former self, after the collapse of the steel industry.
Back in the late 1980s, lawyers Michael Wosskow and David Brown set up their new law firm in the Banner Building in Sheffield’s forgotten East End – shortly afterwards they purchased the building.
With the help of the Sheffield Development Corporation (SDC), who were overseeing the urban regeneration of the Lower Don Valley area of Sheffield at the time, the pair made improvements to the John Banner Building, which has housed Wosskow Brown Solicitors Head Office ever since.
Work on the building has continued and numerous successful tenants have occupied office space in the building over the years.
Twenty-five years after founding Wosskow Brown, the partners of the firm wanted to leave their legacy on development in the region. In response to a call from business leaders and the government for the private sector to step up to the plate and help regenerate our local communities and economy, the partners founded the Wosskow Brown Foundation – to provide practical help, inspiration and opportunities for people to attain their ambitions.
The work of the Foundation has surpassed all expectations, and delivered far more benefit than we could have ever imagined. Through business mentoring and provision of free office space, the Foundation has helped more 950 organisations in one way or another.
On reviewing the Foundation’s five years of success, Wosskow Brown Foundation President, Richard Caborn, said: “In an area of the greatest deprivation here in Attercliffe, there are real green shoots of growth. Part of that is because of what has been done at Wosskow Brown using this initiative to ensure that we have long-term economic and social sustainability.”
We want this work to continue and be right there – in the centre of Attercliffe’s rejuvenation.
There are some amazing projects going on right now in Attercliffe. Having the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, AWRC and Oasis Academy on our doorstep has set the bar high. It is exciting to be in amongst planned developments in the area.
Our iconic home of the John Banner Building will not be overlooked either. Although delayed following the last 18 months, there are talks in progress of a planned development of the building, providing additional high quality office space for the firm to continue to grow.
We look forward to being an integral part of bringing Attercliffe back to life.
Community key to improving Attercliffe canal
“We want to make the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal a real haven where people can escape from the noise and fuss of the city, and Attercliffe is a big of part of that for us. We want it to be a place which brings the whole community together.”
Jade Wilkes is waterways and wellbeing charity Canal & River Trust’s engagement officer for Sheffield, a position funded by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery since 2018.
Working closely with volunteer team leader Anthony Walker and a small army of helpers, the team has made great strides in improving the city’s canal for the community.
Research shows that spending time by water is good for health and wellbeing and part of the team’s work is improving the local environment at Attercliffe, with volunteers carrying out regular litter-picks, vegetation management and towpath maintenance. Their next project is improving the area around the Grade II Listed aqueduct.
“Our volunteers are just fantastic,” said Jade. “They are passionate about improving their bit of the canal for others to enjoy, and it’s a genuine community effort.
“As a charity, we rely heavily on people coming forward to give up their time, and we’re so grateful for that. With every passing week, you can see the real difference they are making.”
One of the most visually striking improvements along the canal is the Street Art Trail. Stunning paintings by local artists on the sides of buildings overlooking the canal have proved incredibly popular with visitors, as well as helping to reduce graffiti tagging in the area. Two new pieces, designed by pupils of Phillimore and Tinsley Meadows schools, are due to be added, too.
Another string to the team’s bow is organising events – large and small – to encourage the community to engage with the canal.
In Attercliffe, they have organised canoe and paddle-boarding sessions, and regularly work with the Oasis Academy students with nature walks and forest school activities, as well as school holiday clubs.
On September 18, Sheffield Waterfront Festival has been expanded to include Attercliffe for the first time, with a festival site on the Don Valley Moorings. It will include watersport tasters, Bollywood dancing, storytelling, arts workshops, sports workshops and much more.
In October, the Trust’s team will be working with partners at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park and Darnall Wellbeing to create one of Sheffield’s biggest Fun Palaces – a popular community arts event. In addition, there are four further family fun day events planned in Attercliffe with Let’s Play Outdoors and Let’s Lockkeep sessions.
Just along the canal, a new canoe hub is being setup in Tinsley.
“We’re delighted with the work that’s been done and the way the community has come together,” said Jade. “But it still feels like it’s the start of something – it still feels like a fresh and exciting project.”
The Trust is always looking to partner with local businesses, including adoptions for stretches of canal. Volunteers are also required. For more details, visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteer
A new chapter in the narrative of Attercliffe
Adam Murray, MD at Urbana Town Planning, is working with our feature’s opening author David Slater to see how his firm of urbanists can contribute to the vision of putting the romantic – and economic – heart back into Attercliffe.
“I met David Slater and The Scarbrough Group because we’re developing a couple of sites in the area and he’s got ownership of some and is in conversations with others – and we’ve been looking at how we can help with that ‘masterplan’ vision for the area, alongside HLM.
“Attercliffe is just such an interesting place – it’s the gritty east end of Sheffield so it’s got all that romantic, nostalgic kind of feel to it of how the city used to be. But equally it was the beating heart of our economy back then, too.
“There’s a perception of it now as like a relic of a bygone era, but I don’t think it is. There’s so much going on down there, with many high-profile as well as niche businesses, and not just in steelmaking. But because they don’t employ as many people as they used to, the area doesn’t get the attention – or the footfall – it deserves.
“More recently, it feels like Attercliffe has really grown up a lot in terms of how its viewed and its future vision, too and that’s in no small part due to Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park. Plus, of course, world class sporting venues like EIS Sheffield. We have Olympic and Paralympic athletes training in our city – you could nip out to the shops and see (British professional boxer) Anthony Joshua running along the street!
“When Don Valley Stadium was demolished a lot of people rolled their eyes and said ‘typical Sheffield, getting rid of great venues’. But, in reality, what has come out of that is actually much bigger and better. The narrative of Attercliffe is changing.
“But just like in any city centre you need people to be living AND working in different areas to make these communities stronger. Attercliffe has some less wealthy communities which will never be able to thrive if they stay as they are because they are so spread about – there’s no real core.
“Urbana has approval for a site between Darnall and Attercliffe for 100 homes and we are looking at four and five-bedroom builds because we researched the demographics of the area and know we need to provide for multigenerational families.
“But we also need to consider who else might want to live there, too. The affordability of housing in the area plus the transport links back into the city centre means there is a great opportunity to encourage people to re-locate there and commute.
“Then there’s the built environment – beautiful spots like the Art Deco former Adelphi Cinema. It all just needs tying in together with some nice, new architecture that complements it, like in Kelham Island – a mix of heritage and modern.
“That can be done but it depends on landowners’ aspirations. It can be tricky because they might want to do something simple and sign up a business which, as town planners and urbanists, we might not think is appropriate. At the same time, however, we’re sympathetic because it will generate income for them and is straightforward. “It’s how we showcase what we’re trying to achieve for the area, so they buy into it. Then the landowner might think twice about a 15-year lease to a drive-through national coffee chain – which is simple but not really going to do anything to drag this area into a better position. Instead, they might consider selling to a developer who wants to build apartments and town houses.
“If landowners don’t understand how they fit in to the bigger picture, Attercliffe will continue to be separate pockets that progress at a snail’s pace. But if they do, I believe we can really take the area to the next level – it could even be the next Kelham Island.”