The Planning & Highways Committee meeting on January 28th underlined the woeful state of democracy in Sheffield. I missed the first hour covering the decision to approve a 38 storey tower on Rockingham St with tiny 4.5 metres square living spaces. I was there for 2 big decisions which will have a massive impact in and around Hillsborough.

For the Lidl store at the bottom of Stannington Rd next to the Malin Bridge gyratory, Planning officers offered reassurance on the impacts from traffic modelling undertaken. A Labour councillor who lives in Walkley offered a helpful, real world overview of the nightmare reality of traffic jams in and around Malin Bridge familiar to many. Green Cllr Peter Garbutt cast the only vote against as the application was approved.

Next was the mixed development, including an Aldi store, on Penistone Rd on vacant land opposite Hillsborough football ground. In the real world every high street retailer and shopping centre wonders whether they have a viable future. But, looking at the cumulative impact of both applications, Planning officers outlined a thriving Hillsborough District Shopping Centre according to statistical analysis. Can it really take the £13.55 million annual hit outlined in the officer’s report and survive? Can Catch Bar Lane and Halifax Road local centres really lose 25% of their business and survive?

More than 5 hours into the meeting, I think 8 committee councillors remained to vote. At least 3 other councillors had wandered off during the meeting without any explanation from the Chair. With one eye on the clock after a far too long agenda, I was the only member of the public left to witness the final vote following a rushed process. Green Cllr Peter Garbutt abstained with enough others clearly going to approve the application – as they voted to do.

On May 7th you can turn around a broken democracy in Sheffield. You can vote for change in the Sheffield City Council governance citywide referendum. You can vote in council elections to end the Labour majority and create a “No Overall Control” council. Collectively, this is the opportunity to review and refresh the way Sheffield City Council works. It’s being resisted every step of the way by the Labour Cabinet but is desperately needed.

Eamonn Ward
Hillsborough Green Party


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