There's been much discussion about the prospect of a new supermarket in Burngreave and where it should go. But now, plans have been revealed and were on display at public events on 9th and 10th February. At the Saturday event at Verdon Recreation Centre, Tesco’s consultants were on hand to talk about the proposed new developments and what it would mean for people in Burngreave and further afield.
Tesco's plans involve a complete rebuilding of the area bounded by Spital Hill and Saville Street. Where the hillside drops away into town, the plans show an extensive development on three levels. Extensive car-parking on all three levels will feed into the store itself, with the main pedestrian entrance at the same level as Spital Hill shops.
Landscaping of Caborn's Corner will give this little triangle of green a well-needed scrub-up, with a meandering ramped path leading through the steps to the shop entrance. We asked if they would add some public seating in the area, but didn't think we’d push for a commitment on a little-noticed point of interest – the plaque commemorating a visit by a delegation of Bulgarian Trade Unionists to Sheffield. If you've never noticed it yet, check it out before it goes.
The bottom end of Spital Hill is not going to be part of Tesco's itself but a new development of commercial office blocks. We raised the possibility of subsidised office-space for local community groups.
Sadly the colour brochures and display boards only got a limited audience. Despite a colourful flyer issued with the latest Messenger, the event was poorly attended by local folk other than those already involved in various professional roles. What the flyer failed to mention was the top-quality lunch provided!
Instead the leaflet boasts worthy headlines such as “quality local shopping”, “new offices” and “595 local jobs”.
There is no doubt that a new Tesco would be a major employer of labour in the area – but how does this translate in practice? We found out that only 395 jobs would be employees of Tesco – the others are assumed to come from the office developments – but 395 is still a fair number and is to be welcomed. The big question is whether Burngreave will see the main benefits or whether employees – like customers – will be drawn in from others areas of the city.
Of course, a new supermarket will need a lot of labour to operate tills, stack shelves, provide security, clean and do admin, and why wouldn't Tesco build in a area with a ready supply of workers? They've thought about training needs of local people and Tesco's stated plan is to work with the Jobcentre and local agencies like Burngreave Opportunities, based at Forum House. Tesco’s Job Guarantee scheme is a national initiative aimed at the long-term unemployed in areas where new stores are being built.
The idea is that Burngreave Opportunities will do an assessment of people’s basic skills and language levels and then provide appropriate training for people who are interested in working at Tesco. If you stick the course, you're guaranteed an interview and a job. Tesco intends to contribute towards some (thought clearly not all) of the cost of the training. However, the consultants were keen to emphasise that it all depends on what conditions the council imposes as part of the planning permission conditions. The mention of conditions negotiated with the council was a key theme in the proposal so far. The other is that, whilst Tesco obviously want to listen to the community and make the most of community goodwill, they are purely a commercial organisation at the end of the day.
So that's the commitment to local people. The plan is to open the doors in early 2009, but you can sign up for a job now. It sounds like it will provide a good number of jobs and there is a lot to be said for jobs very close to home, especially if you can choose certain hours to fit in with home life or school. But what about the top jobs and those with special skills, such as admin, human resources, food hygiene and stock control? It's estimated that 30 or so people will be in management positions and another 100 in skilled posts, but Tesco's consultants were less clear about their commitment to training people up in these areas. This sort of training was “not envisaged.”
It's going to be big
Possibly the biggest surprise is the size of the development. Aside from the office developments, the sales floor space is set to be 80,000 square feet (7432m2). That's a big store! The massive ASDA at Handsworth is only 85,000 square feet. It's also quite different in size from the original proposal in the Masterplan document:
“Part of any planning response to these issues aimed at regenerating Spital Hill as a District Shopping Centre therefore must be to promote a new supermarket which forms part of the strategy to increase footfall in the centre. The size and nature of the store is critical to realising that objective and in this case it is recommended that a store of between 1,200 and 1,600 m2 with car parking would be suitable.”
Impact on local businesses
So what impact will such a massive development have on existing local businesses? There are two lines of thought. One is that a massive supermarket can, and will, undercut every other business. It can also take risks to move into more specialised and localised areas of business (black hair products, for instance) and take over those too. On the other hand, a supermarket of this size may (and must) attract so many more people from the North and East of Sheffield that these products will remain a speciality with minority interest. Our local shops may then survive and indeed prosper with the increased numbers of people driving into the area. Tesco's consultants said they didn't expect to compete with local businesses who had established trade and could offer a much more personalised customer service. No doubt others will dispute this and it may well be that only time will tell.
Planning permission needed
Tesco intend to submit their initial application for planning permission to the City council in early March. If it all goes smoothly, they expect planning permission to be granted by July. However, the City Council can ask for Tesco to provide a contribution to improving the community's well-being (sometimes called a section 106 contribution). The issue of how much it will be and what it will cover depends on how successful the council is in their negotiation with Tesco's team. That in turn will be helped if the planners hear and understand informed comments from local people. However, at this stage, plans are fairly well advanced despite a lack of detailed community consultation so far. Echoing the late stage of the plans, the Tesco consultants also made it clear they wanted feedback sooner rather than later. Time is money in the supermarket development trade.
Having your say
Other than small tear-off slips on the Tesco brochures, it’s unclear how a more detailed consultation will be managed. However, the channel through councillors to the planners will be available at the next Burngreave Area Panel.
Time is moving on. Anyone who wants to lobby their local councillors had better get on with it.
The next Burngreave Area Panel meeting is on Thursday 22nd February at 5pm at Burngreave Library and will include a short presentation on the plans by Tesco’s consultants. The detailed plans are available in the printed brochures and also on the council’s website (though only as a 4MB PowerPoint document). The agenda can also be found on the site.
Burngreave Opportunities is based at Forum House , 35 Spital Hill, and can be contacted on 0114 275 5106 or freephone 0800 073 0727. Email: email@example.com