Wolfson Prize winner proposes urban extensions for Sheffield

The winner of last year's Wolfson Prize to develop ideas for building a new generation of garden cities has recommended that Sheffield build 100,000 homes over the next 20 years, with some of the growth taking place in major urban extensions.

Sheffield and Rotherham: report says 100,000 homes should be built in the conurbation over the next 20 years (picture by Darren Flinders, Flickr)
Sheffield and Rotherham: report says 100,000 homes should be built in the conurbation over the next 20 years (picture by Darren Flinders, Flickr)

The report, produced by urban design and research consultancy URBED for Sheffield City Council, suggests that the Sheffield conurbation could grow by as much as 100,000 homes over the next 20 years within a 15km area around Sheffield, including Rotherham - a figure at the upper end of economic growth scenarios that have been considered for the city-region.

It says that Sheffield’s growth in the coming decades "is a huge opportunity to plan the city, to decide its shape and extent, structure and density".

"Rather than allowing growth to happen as an unplanned consequence of other policies, this report is based on the idea that, like Abercrombie, we can decide how we want our cities to be in 20 or even 40 years and put in place policies to realise that vision," the report adds.

The report says that URBED was asked by Sheffield City Council to set out how the principles in its Wolfson Prize winning entry - awarded to URBED director David Rudlin and colleague Dr Nicholas Falk - might be applied to a big northern city.

URBED’s Wolfson Prize entry suggested that the government should drop the idea of building new garden cities and instead allow existing cities to expand, taking "a confident bite out of the green belt".

The firm’s report on Sheffield said that 70,000 of the 100,000 homes could be accommodated within Sheffield’s urban area, with around 32,000 on brownfield land, 18,000 through increasing the density of urban areas, and 20,000 through "remodelling" neighbourhoods as "in-town" garden cities.

The report suggests that the majority of the remaining growth goes into urban extensions. It suggests "Mosborough (which was planned as an extension in the 1970s), Waverley (which is already being developed by Rotherham) and three smaller extensions at Bassingthorpe (also allocated by Rotherham), Oughtibridge and Stocksbridge in total accommodating 25,000 homes".

However, the report - which suggests that under a lower growth scenario, the greenfield allocations could be removed - warns that "very little" of its proposals are "compatible with the planning system as it currently operates".

It says that much of the 70,000-home capacity of the urban area "cannot be measured to the satisfaction of a planning inspector and in any case would fail the deliverability test".

If Sheffield was therefore to go with the ambitious growth figures that we suggest they could find themselves forced to make more greenfield allocations," the report adds.

"The best way to avoid this is to downplay the city’s growth figures. This is of course why we struggle to build the second, or indeed the third, fourth and fifth cities that we need as a country."

The report suggests that a housing development corporation - with powers to purchase land, as well planning and borrowing powers - should be established to oversee the urban remodelling and urban extensions proposed by the report.

"Intervention on this scale will be required to bring about change that is required," the report said.

Sheffield Garden City? Options for long-term urban growth is available here.

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