Pinstone Street, the home of Sheffield’s independent fast food

The one good thing to come out of the Sevenstone delay?

Fanoush Falafel and the Street Food Chef

Fanoush Falafel and the Street Food Chef

As we wait to find out what the latest talks between the council and Hammerson mean for Sheffield’s Sevenstone retail quarter, an independent food revolution is quietly happening in town.

Pinstone Street is one of the key roads on the edge of the proposed development. In anticipation of demolition and construction work beginning many of the old shops closed down or moved to alternative locations, leaving a depressing row of empty units.

Not for long though. The good news is that a growing number of tasty food outlets have moved in and are breathing life into the vacant shops on Pinstone Street.

The award-winning Street Food Chef arrived first, serving up Mexican street food from tacos, burritos to empanadas. Their breakfast burritos are delicious.

Flurt frozen yoghurt in Sheffield

Flurt frozen yoghurt on PInstone Street

Then Flurt opened a few doors up, offering fat-free frozen yoghurt. A perfect pudding if you’ve got room after your lunchtime burrito.

And this morning Claire from Feast and Glory revealed that Fanoush Falafel is opening next door to the Street Food Chef. Fanoush already have a shop on London Road so it is great to see them opening in town.

What all three of these outlets have in common is that they are independent businesses, offering an alternative to the food chains that you can find in any city. The food is fast, tasty and relatively healthy. They’re definitely worth supporting.

It’s ironic that without Sevenstone these great food outlets may not have opened at all on Pinstone Street. Perhaps the growth of these businesses points to the approach we should take for a city centre retail quarter: if you create favourable terms for people to take on shops in good locations then local, independent businesses can flourish, even alongside the big chains. The city centre needs both.

Make the most of these foodie gems while you can, as a green light for Sevenstone could mean the end of these independent food outlets in prime city centre locations.


Fitzalen square’s faded glory

Another of Sheffield’s forgotten spaces

On Monday, the winners of Forgotten spaces will be announced. We’ll get to see the results of the competition which asked architects, designers and artists to come up with new uses for Sheffield’s forgotten spaces.

It will be interesting to see whether any of the entries looked at what could be made of Fitzalan square, which surely is one of Sheffield’s most prominent, under-used and forgotten public spaces.

The old post office building, Fitzalan square

The old post office building, Fitzalan square

Walking through a couple of months ago, I was struck by how good the square would have once looked. It gets plenty of sunshine and the trees offer a nice bit of shade, as well as some greenery to contrast with to the buildings.

I don’t know that much about architecture, but look closely and you’ll see just how impressive these buildings are. I don’t think Sheffield has anywhere near as much Victorian architecture compared to many cities of a similar size, but in Fitzalan square you’ll find the magnificent old post office dominating the south side. This grand old grade-II* structure has stood empty since 1999 and sadly been left to fall into disrepair.

Fitzalan square

Fitzalan square

On the west of the square there is another attractive building, towering five stories high with balconies on the windows and five beautiful arches on the ground level which are currently operating as retail units.

Adjacent to this on corner of the square and High street is the square’s most famous building. Now a motorcycle accessories store, the Marples building used to be a seven storey hotel but was completely reduced to rubble by bombing during in the war. The building you see there now was constructed in the 1950s.

The Marples name lives on in the square by means a small fast food hut. A statue of King Edward VII stands in the middle of the square, which was cleaned up and illuminated in as part of a facelift in 2003.

King Edward VII statue, Fitzalan square

King Edward VII statue, Fitzalan square

Despite the impressive buildings and the statue centerpiece, Fitzalan square doesn’t currently feel a enticing place to hang out. I took these photos over a lunchtime when there was just a single office worker enjoying his dinner there.

The roads around the edge of the square leave you feeling a bit isolated and hum of running engines in the taxi rank on the west side doesn’t make it particularly relaxing. Some of the businesses on the square – an amusement arcade and betting shops – also don’t really add much charm.

The good news is that that there are signs of recovery. The old post office building has been bought* and will be repaired and restored to a basic level before a further development is announced. Apparently it won’t be a hotel or flats.

Marples food hut, Fitzalan square

Marples food hut, Fitzalan square

This may be the lease of life that the square needs and a catalyst for some positive further development. I think the centre of the square could be remodelled, some of the roads pedestrianised and if they manage to attract the right businesses – some decent shops, perhaps a nice pub, cafe or restaurant trading on the Marples name and with outside tables – it could give people a reason to visit.

I’m not sure to what extent the recession has affected this bit of the Sheffield city centre master plan, but the original idea was to develop the route between Victoria quays and the High street, open up what’s left of Sheffield castle and landscape a park around the remains. If this is ever happens, it will at the very least be a huge benefit to Fitzalan square. Hopefully the planners will include it as a key part of their overall vision.

For now, the next step is the plans for the old post office building, which we should find out about in early 2012.

*ignore the main picture on this article, for some reason the Star has chosen to show a picture of a separate University of Sheffield development

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Vex at Portland works


Vex: live electronics, acoustic ensembles, audio visual screenings and performance art at Portland works

Live electronics, music, screenings and performance art

There was a big boost last month for the campaign to save Portland works when the planning application to convert the grade II* listed building into flats was withdrawn.

People are now being invited to help purchase the building in order to bring it back into the hands of people that work there and the community.

The campaign has gained many friends along the way and as part of the efforts to raise the profile of Portland works some great events have taken place there including open days and the Steel city pulse event at the Sensoria festival (watch the drumming here).

On Saturday 11 June a new cultural night is kicking off at the Portland works. Vex promises ‘innovative live electronics, audiovisual work and performance art mixing accessible and exciting electro-acoustic music with light, film and other media.’

Vex is free and there is a cheap, licensed bar. Doors open at 7pm.

Vex Facebook event

Sheaf valley park open air theatre

An outdoor amphitheatre for Sheffield

It seems that work has started on Sheaf valley park on the hill behind the station.

Possible plans for the park include the design below, which shows an amphitheatre carved out of the hillside.

The project will be completed in phases as and when the money becomes available. The good news is that it seems the amphitheatre is included in the first phase:

Earth will be moved to form a level space for events, with a series of seating terraces above where people can enjoy views of Sheffield city centre and beyond

I really like the idea of an outdoor performance area and seating that looks back across the city skyline. It could look spectacular on a summer evening with the sun setting over the hills opposite and provide a perfect backdrop for live theatre or musical performances…just as long as the trains aren’t too noisy.

Sheaf valley park

Sheaf valley park - image from

Castle market and Sheffield castle

The regeneration and preservation of Sheffield’s past

A debate is rumbling about whether or not Castle market should be listed.

Giving it listed status would mean that it would be much harder to press ahead with some elements of the Sheffield city centre master plan, notably the idea to open up the ruins of the old castle, which are located under the current 1960s market building.

The arguments are discussed in this post on the Bleeding heart show blog:

There’s no doubt that if the decision is made purely on aesthetic or historical grounds, the council would have their demolition day. But when you consider the decision on social grounds, things get somewhat murkier.

The full post is well worth a read.

A tale of two castles post on Bleeding heart show blog

Castle market by daskine on Flickr

Castle market by daskine on Flickr, used under the Creative commons licence

The return of Gatecrasher

A new home for the Sheffield superclub

In case you missed it yesterday, the world-famous Sheffield nightclub Gatecrasher is set to return to the city this September in a new home.

Gatecrasher has submitted £5m plans to turn the basement of the cheesegrater car park on Charles street into a 2,000 capacity venue. The proposals can be viewed on the Sheffield city council website.

They are urging people to get behind the application via their website and a Facebook fan page and event.

The previous Gatecrasher (nee Republic) venue on Arundel street burnt down in June 2007.

The distinctive cheesegrater building seems to be a generally well-received addition to the city skyline and I think this makes it a relatively good choice of location. Presumably having a night club located in the basement will help minimise any excess sound escaping and affecting city centre residents.

If the new Gatecrasher does get approved and built then it also won’t do any harm to Sheffield’s City of culture 2013 bid.

What do you think, has it been missed? Is there any reason why we wouldn’t want to see the return of Gatecrasher to Sheffield in this location?

Disco inferno by suburbandk

The Gatecrasher fire of June 2007 - Disco inferno by suburbandk, used under Creative commons license

Save Portland works, Sheffield

Formally object to the planning application

Just to draw your attention this campaign to try and save the Portland works building on Randall street from the threat of being developed into flats.

Located in Sharrow, the grade II listed building is currently home to metalworkers, cabinet-makers, musicians, artists, sole traders and others.

The case for keeping the building as a home for little mesters-style workshops is articulated well in a letter in this week’s Sheffield Telegraph which describes the works as our ‘living heritage, not a museum or polished up piece of preserved past’.

Isn’t there a more appropriate location for flats, one that doesn’t involve threatening the existence of these historical workshops and small businesses? As the letter in the paper points out, some of the commercial tenants are proudly still practising the traditional manufacturing methods that made the city famous.

The online campaign is centered on the Portland works blog and a Facebook group which you can join to keep up to date with the cause.

Perhaps the most useful way of showing your support is to formally object to the planning application on the Sheffield city council website. The recent victory over East midlands trains regarding the station barriers was supported by 1,250 objections that will have no doubt been an influence on the planning board.

Object to the Portland works planning application

Creative uses of spaces in Sheffield city centre

Filling the Sevenstone void

With the Sevenstone retail quarter on hold for at least the next 2-3 years, there are empty buildings and patches of land in town earmarked for development but currently not being used to their potential.

The latest scheme to try and address this is the proposed Red square retail area which is featured in the latest issue of Exposed magazine.

This idea would see vacant land on Trafalgar street (see the map below) turned into a hub of 35 small units and workspaces for artists, makers and creative independent new retailers. The shipping container units (‘ship shops’) would be cheap to rent and let on easy-in/easy-out terms. The focal point is a small, central square with a cafe and gallery.

The people behind the idea are looking for feedback on the proposal and also would like to hear from any potential occupiers. At the time of writing, it doesn’t look like the website is live, but if you are interested or just want more information then email

There are also other schemes trying to find creative and worthwhile uses for the available spaces in the city centre.

The excellent Sheffield Swap shop project aims to take on a vacant shop in Sheffield and turn it into a community swap shop managed by volunteers. People will be able to turn up to exchange skills, services and use it for other community-related activities. It looks like Sunwin house is a venue that Swap shop is considering. If you want to get involved, contact Helen Milner.

University architecture students and the council have got together to work on the Empty quarter action project. They will be publishing a report full of creative ideas for the vacant shops, buildings and streets in the city and need your input for the public consultation that will feed into this. If you are interested in contributing to this then read more and email the project.

In addition, the council has also given the empty shop fronts behind Pinstone street a cosmetic makeover and there is ongoing discussion regarding what to do with the empty fire station on Wellington street.

Walking around some parts of town is a bit depressing at the moment so it is encouraging that people are trying to do something about it. It is good to have a mix of grassroots community schemes to get involved with like Swap shop and also ideas such as Red square that could also give a commercial boost and spawn new, independent businesses in the city centre.

What do people think to these schemes? Are there any more going on that I have missed?

The location earmarked for Red square

Architectural tour of Sheffield

‘Sheffield just doesn’t seem to know how good it actually is’

People reading this blog who aren’t on Twitter may have missed the link posted at the end of last week to a great article on the Building Design website.

The author, Owen Hatherly, took a walk around the city for the magazine’s Urban trawl feature and the resulting article and follow-up blog post are well worth a read.

Eyebrows have been raised in the past in response to some of Sheffield’s planning decisions and buildings, however Owen recognises that our examples of post-war, modernist architecture are actually mostly better than what London has to offer.

Of course not everyone loves this style of building design, but reading his feature does make you look again at some of the city’s well-known landmark structures with a new appreciation.

Castle market is described as ‘a shopping centre with a weirdness and individuality that puts all the Arndales to shame’; the Manpower services building at Moorfoot and Jefferson Sheard’s electricity substation are ‘thrillingly paranoid Cold War megastructures’; and Park hill is labelled as ‘one of the great buildings of the century, anywhere – a truly astonishing architectural achievement’.

He also picks up on one of the reasons why local people have such affection for Sheffield: whichever way you look, the charming haphazard sprawl of the city is nearly always neatly framed by the beautiful surrounding countryside, which is only minutes away.

And his advice for ensuring that Sheffield remains such a unique place? We need to concentrate less on trying to be like everywhere else and spend more time celebrating the individuality of the city and its distinctive collection of buildings. With Sevenstone in the pipeline and Urban splash attempting a delicate balancing act with Park hill, this will no doubt prove quite a challenge.

Caption by Paolo Màrgari -, used under the Creative Commons licence

Park hill: 'one of the great buildings of the century, anywhere - a truly astonishing architectural achievement'. Photo by Paolo Màrgari -, used under the Creative Commons licence

New Sheffield city centre shopping website

Town battles on as it awaits the arrival of Sevenstone

It is a difficult time for the city centre at the moment. While the promise of the new retail quarter has raised hopes that town will once again become a significant northern shopping destination, walking past the empty shops on the Moor and Pinstone Street is presently quite depressing.

Although it was reported last week that footfall in town has increased by 17,000 people a month, for me the city centre still needs all the help it can get to encourage shoppers.

Seemingly, the council has recognised this and is making some effort to give town its best chance of success before the arrival of Sevenstone, with hoardings displaying images of Sheffield being erected around derelict buildings marked for demolition.

And according to this council email, a new website promoting shopping in the city is in the pipeline:

A new website will be launched in April that shows just what’s on offer for shopping in the city centre. It will show potential shoppers what shops are here, where they are, and what they sell. Retailers will be able to update special offers and events, and talk to other retailers through the site. The aim of the site is to promote Sheffield as a competitive retail destination. It’s a joint initiative between the council, Creative Sheffield and the Chamber of Commerce.

So if these initiatives work, what will people think when they arrive in the town? Some visitors from London commented to me that as an urban environment, parts of the city centre look great (I did take them on a selective route of the city). But some areas look very run-down and we know that for shopping, it still has a long way to go.

With current economic conditions causing more retailers to fold and further shop units to stand empty, I can’t help but feel that it will get worse before it gets better. However, I am also sure that in due course we will once again have a shopping destination of which to be proud.