Sheffield is facing the biggest property planning boom since WW2

More developers than ever are investing in Sheffield as the council experiences the biggest boom in planning since World War II.

Original article posted by The Sun; 16/01/2019

Currently, Sheffield Council makes around 5,000 different decision every year on developments, more than 100 of which are major schemes.

Rob Murfin, the council's chief planning officer, said: "We are extra-ordinarily busy at the moment. At the end of last year, in terms of new planning applications we were the busiest we have ever been in this city, going back to the second world war and that is not true of all cities in the UK."

Mr Murfin said it was putting pressure on what he calls the "search for space", and likened it to the video game, SimCity.

He said: "We have been absolutely rigorous in trying to find every bit of available brownfield land. But a lot of it is in parts of the city where the market will not want to build homes without assistance so we are also working on making direct bids to central government for large amounts of money to help us get ourselves building money.

"As an example of how we've looked for every area of available housing, over the past five years we have granted planning permission for about 14 and a half thousand homes on what was former employment or industrial sites. And obviously we need to keep land for commercial uses.

"It's almost like SimCity, trying to fit everything in and make it all work and make sure you don't have unwelcomed side effects like unacceptable traffic congestion, when you talk about pressure you talk about roads and transport, schools and services, doctors surgeries, dentists and things like that - it's important to balance everything."

At the turn on the century there was about 3,000 people living in the city centre and now it's approaching 30,000.

Not least, Sheffield has grown its large student population which is drawing many developers. But there are also worries the council is approving too many student flats.

Mr Murfin said: "Student accommodation has been identified as a profitable area. We are now seeing signs of the first build to rent schemes and we are encouraging developers to do this more, building not just 100% student developments but developments that can be converted into other accommodation should the need decrease."

He said in order to cope with the rise in planning applications, they have tried to use as much brownfield land as possible, rather than edging into the green belt.

"Unlike most parts of the country we always aim for about 90% of the development on brownfield land and that's been the best way to move forward. But fundamentally we are in search of space because we need land for homes and land for jobs and business," he added.

"If you want to have new homes and new jobs you need land for it and those compete against each other, we are surrounded by green belt so you want to make the best of the city."

He added Brexit poses a potential threat to the economy and agreeing development now may help Sheffield cope. After the referendum on the European Union, research showed cities such as Sheffield would be hit the hardest by economic downturn caused by Brexit.

Mr Murfin said: "If there is going to be an economic downturn because of Brexit then we need to make sure that a lot of this interest in buildings and investment is agreed. So, if there is a downturn we are able to weather it better than previous recessions."

Alexis Krachai, managing director of Counter Context and one of the founders of the Sheffield Property Association, said it was important that the city keeps the momentum heading into the next year.

He said: "Investment and growth is about getting the basics right, confidence and momentum, Sheffield has all three right now.

"It is without doubt that Sheffield is seeing the most significant investment for a generation. Investors and developers are turning into the fact we have a city that has all the right ingredients. We are well connected, the city centre is home to a growing number of people looking for a vibrant place to live and more and more businesses are looking for office space.

"Confidence is high as the town hall has done a good job of facilitating growth. Local and national developers are following up with private investments which is why we are seeing so many cranes on the horizon.

"As we head further into 2019, it is about maintaining that momentum. The key will be ensuring everyone who wants to see the city grow continues to work together. More growth equals more jobs and more funding in frontline services."

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