Sheffield’s grass roots arts scene has been hit with the devastating news that their studios are under threat.
Planning permission for the destruction of many buildings within the Cultural Industries Quarter (CIQ) has recently being granted by Sheffield City Council.
Over 30 properties around the area of Sidney Street, Matilda Street, Arundel Street and Sylvester Street are earmarked for redevelopment, with local artists, musicians and small businesses potentially being forced to move elsewhere.
Elmsdale Estates Ltd is understood to be the company behind the planning application, with student accommodation, town houses, offices, retail units and a bar all to be included in the new development.
Nearly 2,000 signatures had been added to an online petition in an attempt save the occupied buildings, with many fiercely opposed to the redevelopment of the area. The CIQ is currently a haven for artists and musicians due to the affordability of its studios and the lack of residents to annoy.
Nevertheless, on the 26th September Sheffield City Council announced it had granted planning permission, citing the CIQ as no longer being suitable for manufacturing, with the destruction of existing uses “not considered contrary to policy”.
Local musician Ed Crisp, founder of the petition, told Pretty Nice his of disappointment at the decision, with his own practice space at Renown Works set to be demolished:
“I have no idea where musicians or creatives would go if it weren’t for these places. I’d imagine just pushed further out of the heart of the city, out of sight and out of mind, which would be a shame.”
DIY practice and recording spaces such as The Lughole and Portland Works are acknowledged as transforming otherwise decrepit ex-industrial buildings into hubs of artistic self-expression. Local band Blood Sport credit the area as nurturing their music and have voiced opposition to the development:
“What a shame it is to see these spaces swept aside and disregarded as a public nuisance by planners. We’ve seen this happen countless number of times and it’s been a constant threat that anyone operating in the DIY community feels always lurking around the next corner.”
Artists such as Faunagraphic, based at Bloc Studios on Sylvester Street, have also voiced concerns about the potential pitfalls of artists being scattered across the city. She praises the neighbouring galleries and workshops for helping her progress in her art and encourages the council not to forget about the CIQ’s homegrown economy:
“I think the council should take a good walk round the area and look at how they can make it work more for creatives, and if there is no other option to possibly look at making another area in the city for them”.
According to Sheffield City Council planning permission was in fact granted back in 2011 to Elmsdale Estates, with the current application a process to keep the project “live”. However the developer is unlikely to start substantive work in the near future as redevelopment of the adjacent Gatecrasher site is believed to be the priority for the developer.
Green Party Councillor Jillian Creasy has attempted to reassure tenants that they are not under risk of immediate demolition and that there would still be space for existing uses when the new development is finished – although the units would inevitably be more expensive to rent than the current workshops.
Dr Creasy, Leader of the Green Group and representative for Sheffield’s Central Ward said that:
“Given that substantial work is unlikely to happen for a couple of years, there is time for negotiation. As a local councillor with an interest in the health of small businesses in the city, especially the city centre, I would be very happy to be involved in that process.”
There will undoubtedly be fierce opposition to the demolition of the well-loved units. In an ideal world, those who speak loudest would have been listened to. Nevertheless it is good to bear in mind the loudest shouter of all – money.
By Melissa Hunt