However, like any other potential development, an application from IKEA has to be judged against the planning policy of the Government and the Local Plan adopted by the Council after lengthy consultation. The Council can’t simply say ‘yes’ because of a vocal lobby of those who like IKEA as a place to shop.
There are two particular planning issues which IKEA has to address with regard to its current proposal. Firstly, both the Government and the Council have a policy of town and district centre first. In order to keep such centres vibrant and viable, any retail development should preferably be located there. This means that those without cars can access shops and others with their own car may choose to use public transport with the obvious environmental benefits. By locating shops together, shoppers can walk to a choice of shops. Town and district centres also offer public space, theatres, galleries and other facilities.
Only if no suitable sites exist in those centres should out-of-town sites be considered. If this process is not gone through, any new retail schemes would just try to locate where it’s cheapest to build and the city centre would simply die.
The second issue is a challenge facing all development near junction 34 on the M1. The government’s national Highways Agency assesses the junction as being at capacity. IKEA will have to convince the Agency that traffic from its scheme will not cause gridlock. It will also have to show that other development sites in the area which already have permission for office, manufacturing and other uses will not be sterilized, and their jobs lost, because junction 34 is too full to allow all to be built. It is not just a case of jobs at IKEA, but that other potential jobs should not be jeopardised.
We must also be cautious however about the forecast extra jobs from an IKEA store. If the forecast new jobs from every new store and supermarket in recent years had materialized, there would be no unemployment today. Ultimately, shoppers have only so much to spend and, if a new store opens, much of its trade simply transfers from existing shops. Over the years small shops have closed as more large ones have opened. I accept however if IKEA are going to build a new store we should work with them to ensure the jobs are created in Sheffield.
IKEA could also help their cause by encouraging people to travel by public transport. The site is next to a tram stop. Free home delivery within a prescribed distance of the store would do that and also help those without cars who would like to shop at IKEA.
I hope IKEA can work with the Council to address these important issues. I look forward to Sheffielders being able to shop in their own IKEA in the near future.