Green light for Castle site overhaul
Plans for public space and the de-culverting of part of the River Sheaf were approved unanimously by Sheffield’s planning committee, paving the way for further development in future.
Landowner Sheffield City Council, working with Arup, is the applicant for the project, which looks to create a destination public space at the confluence of the Don and Sheaf rivers, historically a hub for the city and a site regarded as its birthplace.
The three-acre Castle site forms the centrepiece of the Gateway to Sheffield bid submitted for Levelling Up Fund support in 2021, together with Harmony Works and Park Hill Artspace.
At its heart, this is a civic improvement programme: the scheme will bring forward 128,000 sq ft of public realm to the city in an area that is currently derelict and hoarded, following the 2015 demolition of Castle Market.
As described by Arup in its design & access statement, the project “provides essential infrastructure and enabling work to unlock the future development of a large brownfield site and the economic regeneration of Castlegate quarter”.
Along with the public space element, educational and commercial space will be developed, with a first anchor already identified in the form of a sixth form college and adult education centre.
The plan includes a large green space for events and a smaller riverside green space, with additional paved areas.
Arup suggested that “meanwhile” uses would be introduced ahead of later development coming on stream. The hybrid application covers full consent for the red-line public realm project, with outline permission only sought for four development plots, detailed plans for which are yet to be firmed up.
A following bid for full consent on the development plots could also include further de-culverting works.
Improving the permeability of the site is a major point. As Arup outlined: “This scheme presents an opportunity to enhance the quality and experience of movement through Castlegate. Routes are designed to be intuitive and pleasurable, improve connectivity to the wider area and encourage walking and cycling.”
While various concerns over planning conditions were raised by speakers at the meeting of Sheffield’s planning committee on 23 May, with queries concerning the siting of development plots and issues around the de-culverting, the broad consensus among councillors commenting was that the project’s broad principles are to be welcomed, reflected in the unanimous agreement with the planning officers’ recommendation of approval.
The site is framed by Castlegate to the north, the partly-pedestrianised Exchange Street to the south, the Waingate public transport corridor to the west and the Alexandra House student accommodation and Exchange Place Studios buildings to the east. There are various heritage buildings in the area.
Wessex Archaeology is an advisor on the project. The proposals, submitted in February, outlined how parts of the castle’s remains could be revealed as part of the project.