Last week, it came to light that Sheffield Council had received a planning application to demolish a number of buildings at the top of Division Street. The buildings in question house numerous independent shops and cultural highlights, including Syd and Mallory (a locally sourced clothes shop) and Rare and Racy (a book and record store).
For the Record...
Rare and Racy in particular is a very special place in Sheffield. It is a business that has stood firm for over 40 years despite the decline of physical book and record sales, and has been a centre for local musicians and artists for decades. In place of these unique and individual businesses, developers plan to install “commercial space” with 10 studio apartments and 4 one-bedroom apartments. Quite baffling, as huge apartment buildings already surround the area (many with unoccupied apartments).
For those of you unfamiliar with this part of our glorious city, Division Street is a vibrant and distinctive part of Sheffield with lots of independent businesses choosing to set up shop here due to the location and connection to local social and artistic movements. Over the last few years, some of the big chains have managed to muscle their way onto Division Street (I’m looking at you Pizza Express, Sainsburys, Costa Coffee, Subway), however the spirit largely remains intact. Of course big businesses will flock to where the money is, but when the independent businesses that help build that community are being ousted to make room, there is a problem.
Division Street is a vital hub for independent businesses in Sheffield, and if establishments like Rare and Racy are deemed disposable by the council then nothing is sacred. Sheffield council unforgivably agreed to the demolition of a large number of buildings in our so called “Cultural Industries Quarter” to make way for student accommodation. Independent music venues, practice rooms, art spaces among other offices will be wiped out to make room for flats for students. “Cultural” indeed.
Sheffield is a diverse, eclectic and special part of the country. It doesn't get the spotlight of its larger neighbours Leeds and Manchester, but there is no place quite like the Steel City. Independent businesses make Sheffield what it is, and if our council saw past the big bucks that identikit restaurants and coffee shops bring they would have the opportunity to nurture this individuality and build on this city’s burgeoning reputation.
Just Say No
So far, hundreds of people have objected to the application and urged others to do the same. If you care about preserving the character of Sheffield, celebrating uniqueness or just have a passion or preference for independent businesses please comment on the application and state your objection.