Sheffield city centre’s Fargate and High Street area has been selected as one of more than 50 areas across the country to go through to the second phase of a multi-million government fund designed to transform high streets and make them fit for the future.

The University of Sheffield’s Director of City and Culture, Partnerships and Regional Engagement, Professor Vanessa Toulmin, coordinated the University’s support for the successful bid by Sheffield City Council to the Future High Streets Fund.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin said: “We are delighted to have been part of the bid team aiming to bring vibrancy to Sheffield’s Fargate and High Street area. Our bid is all about creating a vibrant city centre which reflects the people of Sheffield; essentially bringing that friendliness and special character of Sheffield people to our city centre.

“Creating this vibrancy includes not just having spaces to live in the city centre, but also about the support network which needs to go with that such as creches, green spaces and accessible links between the key areas of the centre.”

She added: “We need to think creatively about how people live and what brings them to a city centre – it isn’t just about retail opportunities but also about places to dwell, places for leisure and places for relaxing.

“The University’s role in the bid has been to bring our academic expertise to the bid as well as bring together the various partners required to bring Sheffield’s city centre into the 21st century.  Our role will continue through this next stage where we have the opportunity to work up a clear proposal for how we want Sheffield city centre to look in the long-term for the benefit of users, residents, landlords, businesses and retailers and the wider Sheffield community.”

During the formation of the bid, the University facilitated a number of workshops and brought together partners across the city involved in the bid, as well as specialist consultancy help to frame the bid directly to the funding requirements.

One of these was Dr Julian Dobson, Director of the research consultancy Urban Pollinators and the University’s Department of Landscape Architecture.

He said: “Sheffield has a huge opportunity to turn its historic high street from a struggling shopping area into a really exciting neighbourhood offering a connected, sustainable and enjoyable life for a new generation of city centre residents, workers and visitors. The government’s vote of confidence in our initial proposals provides a platform from which we can work up great ideas and engage with the people who want to make things happen in our city.

“I was delighted to be asked by Vanessa Toulmin to help draft the initial expression of interest on the basis of some of the ideas in my book ‘How to Save Our Town Centres’, and I’ve been encouraged by the University’s enthusiasm for the improvement of the whole city and its commitment to a creative, inclusive and prosperous Sheffield.”

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment at Sheffield City Council, said: “There is real momentum building in the transformation of Sheffield’s city centre and that is due to an impressive combined effort from a range of partners.

“Sheffield is uniting to deliver an increasingly vibrant and exciting mix of retail, residential and leisure right at the heart of the city. The University’s contribution to getting us to the second stage of this process – now with a good chance of securing millions of pounds of additional investment – shows real commitment to the life of the city as a whole, and we thank them warmly for that.”

Pic credit: The University of Sheffield