Sheffield Study Trip
Senior Planner at Tibbalds John Wilkinson, shares his experiences of our one-day visit to Sheffield
For Tibbalds’ Autumn study trip to Sheffield, we visited two areas of the city subject to celebrated regeneration projects. Kelham Island and particularly the Park Hill Estate have received widespread attention for updating long held reputations for infamy and decline, whilst maintaining or paying tribute to the existing built environment.
Park Hill regeneration
The Park Hill Estate sits atop its namesake hill overlooking Sheffield Train Station. In the 1980s and 1990s the estate held a reputation for crime and like other post-war mass housing this was seen as a failure of its design. The estate was largely boarded up by the 1990s, with all of the shops and pubs closed down.
“The estate was largely boarded up by the 1990s, with all of the shops and pubs closed down. ”
However, following a grade II listing in 1998 and the subsequent phase 1 retrofit by Urban Splash, Park Hill has accomplished a fresh reputation with tote bag tributes now available, as well as a musical by Richard Hawley, set on the estate. A subsequent 4 stages have since been developed or are in the offing.
Tibbalds got a tour of the parts of the estate which are open. Phase 1 is the dayglow Urban Splash part, whilst Phase 2 by Stirling Prize winners Mikhail Riches, takes a subtler approach, perhaps showing greater tribute not just to the original architecture, but to residents who have called Park Hill Home. We caught a glimpse of phase 3 which is student housing and lacks the dazzle of the first two phases. A further 2 phases are still to come, with Phase 4 awarded planning permission in 2019.
The flats themselves seemed smaller than I had expected. Perhaps evidence the estate, built in 1961, came before the Parker Morris Standards - mandatory space standards for new towns and council homes.
The regeneration has not come without criticism chiefly for its balance of affordable housing (most flats are for private sale) as well as for its dayglow panels which in phase 1 of the regeneration have significantly altered the starkness, or drabness (depending on how you see it), of the original concrete.
I’ve often caught glimpses of Park Hill on trips to Sheffield, which can be quite imposing from down at the train station but the views from Park Hill may be unrivalled in the city. The entire cityscape opens up before your eyes, from Bramall Lane in the South across over to Kelham Island - our final stop on the trip.
Kelham Island: modular housing in an area rich with industrial heritage
Kelham Island is an older built environment than Park Hill. In fact, the manmade island dates back to the 1100s
After a very good lunch at South Street Kitchen in Park Hill we got a tour, from council officers, of the new SUDs in the centre of the city. Appropriately the heavens opened for our SUDs tour and the rain persisted for our walk around Kelham Island.
Kelham Island is an older built environment than Park Hill. In fact, the mandmade island dates back to the 1100s. The Island sits within the River Don. A previously industrial area, Kelham’s regeneration has retained this industrial heritage. Though, many of its grand factories today house restaurants and posh shops. Perhaps something to ponder for a future visit.
We got a tour of some of the new modular housing going up in the area from developer Citu. This included a look inside a new town house, similar in layout and size to a maisonette flat. Much of the garden/open space in the scheme is shared which presumably maximises space, though some buildings with ground floor rooms sit so close to the street and amenity space I wondered about how private they’d feel to live in.
Many of the buildings were in a Nordic, almost shed style and looked clean, fitting into industrial vernacular, but not attempting an inevitably paler copy. For me the jury was still out on the redevelopment of Kelham Island. It is certainly a sustainable location for new housing and you could live there without a car which is good. A fair payoff for the lack of private amenity space.
We retired to a warm pub after all that touring and I pondered how this approach to regeneration, particularly Park Hill, compares with schemes in London where retention and retrofit can flip previous impressions which in the past might have led to demolition.
“Other Post-war housing projects, elsewhere, were perhaps not in such central locations as Park Hill ”
Other Post-war housing projects, elsewhere, were perhaps not in such central locations as Park Hill, think Red Road in Glasgow (demolished 2015). Whilst Park Hill underwent many of the social problems other estates did this coincided with global economic conditions and the deindustrialisation of Sheffield.
Having survived Park Hill may now be in the right place and at good scale to appeal to skilled workers and those working from home but wanting to be close to the centre of the city. However, across our trip was a sense of Sheffield’s heritage. Park Hill was built during a post-war boom for municipal housing, but I don’t know if it can still be considered municipal. Something which is unsurprising but nevertheless a shame. Particularly so at a time when local authorities are starting to build housing again.
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