Nightlife – the changing night-time economy

As the nation moves away from retail high streets and old-school pubs and clubs, Graduate Planner Megan Askham looks at changing nature of the night-time economy, and the movement towards the modern regeneration of city centres with mixed-use developments taking hold, with a particular emphasis on Sheffield.

Since 2020, with the impact of a major pandemic, the closure of night-time venues and retail stores has been largely apparent in the UK. Around 30 pubs and restaurants close every day in the UK, meaning for every 3 venues closing only 1 opens its doors. Additionally, the boost in online shopping over the past two years has spurred the death of the High Street with minimal demand for shopping centres and streets within city centres.

Sheffield has shown significant losses of high street amenity and some of its major night-time spaces in recent years. The major retail sector in the city has been in slow decline since the opening of, the out-of-town shopping centre, Meadowhall, in 1990. However, since 2020 two major department stores in the centre of the retail district in the city have closed their doors, leaving two large, vacant buildings in the heart of the city. In addition to this, most retail stores have moved towards the Moor, through the regeneration scheme by Sheffield City Council and leading investors, leaving Fargate in decline. This has led to the supply of funding from three main sources: Future High Streets Fund; Get Britain Building Fund; and the Heart of the City, for the regeneration of the retail core into mixed-use developments. A mixed-use development combines three or more uses across various levels or within open space, they are flexible to adapt to changing needs and have excellent connections to infrastructure.

Firstly, the Future High Streets Fund of £675 million has invested £15.8 million into Fargate and High Street with an aim to renew and reshape city centres in a way that drives growth, improves experience and ensures future sustainability. Within Sheffield, there is an aim of transforming the main streets into a sustainable, social hub with landscaping, green planting, seating areas and lighting with work beginning in early 2023. A major example of this is the Grey to Green scheme, designed with climate change, well-being and economic investment in mind, introducing pocket parks along Fargate. This is already in place along West Bar and Castlegate in the form of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). These are excellent examples of green infrastructure within the city due to the softening of grey streets and increase in urban biodiversity.

Events Central is a mixed-use development opening on Fargate in 2023 as part of the Future High Streets Fund. It is a five-storey community hub for entertainment, culture, art, performance, co-working and events with sustainability as a key component within the low-impact space. The licensed 200-capacity music venue in the basement is proposed to attract more than 110,000 visitors a year with major international events.

Secondly, the Heart of the City development within the city is a £470 million scheme funded by Sheffield City Council over 7 hectares of land in a phase by phase approach. Within Part II of the scheme, Block H2, Cambridge Scheme Collective, comprises a mixed-use heritage development consisting of a food hall, independent restaurants, a cookery school, a broadcasting studio and space for pop-up events. This block features some of the most interesting historic buildings within the scheme, using the façades to bring Sheffield’s heritage back to life through redevelopment.

Thirdly, Get Britain Building is a government grant secured through the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority which has invested £300,000 in the development of the recently opened Steel Yard on Fargate. This is a shipping container development which creates a more sustainable alternative to brick and cement due to the availability of steel, they are commonly used for mixed-use schemes and provide an alternative design to other city centre architecture. This consists of a 426sqm container hub with street food outlets, a bar, shops, a big screen for sports events and much-needed city centre public toilets with outdoor seating and green, living walls. These have only recently opened in October 2022, with hopes to be the location to watch England win the World Cup in December.

Finally, with the changing night-time economy, more fun businesses and local events have become more evident. These include independent businesses and events with monthly food and street markets throughout the city, such as Peddler Night Market and the Quayside Market. Also, temporary seasonal markets along Fargate help to bring life to the city centre at Christmas and throughout the year with Sheffield Food Festival and Continental Markets in various months. Additionally, the impact of “booze and ball games” has been evident nationally with fun bars popping up in major cities changing the dynamic of bars. In Sheffield, there has been the opening of Roxy Ballroom, Boom Bar and Lane 7 within the heart of the city providing fun activities to provide a variant to pubs and nightclubs.

The investments into the night-time economy in Sheffield from outside sources creates exciting potential to create a modern, vibrant city with conglomerations of mixed-use schemes providing variety for people visiting the city centre at night time. It will be intriguing to witness how further investments into mixed-use schemes can greatly enhance the remaining forgotten areas of Sheffield City Centre.

Megan Askham, Graduate Planner, Planning & Design Practice Ltd

Main Image: Artist’s impression of the plans for Fargate shipping containers.

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