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Council emphasises investment plans after John Lewis closure

John Lewis

The retailer has had a presence in Sheffield, having originally acquired the Cole Brothers site from Selfridges Provincial Stores group

Sheffield City Council has emphasised the potential job-creating impact of its Heart of the City plans after John Lewis’ announcement that its landmark department store will not reopen.

John Lewis Partnership yesterday named the Sheffield store among eight that it is not planning to reopen following the end of lockdown.

The retailer has had a presence in Sheffield since the advent of WWII, having originally acquired the Cole Brothers site from Selfridges Provincial Stores group.

The Sheffield store dates back to 1940 and employs 299 staff. A new lease was agreed last year with Sheffield City Council with plans for a refurbishment also set out.

Under the terms of the deal, the council paid £3m to John Lewis for the surrender of the then-lease, which had a term of 42 years remaining at a nominal ground rent. It then entered into a new 20-year modern lease for the building in return for a turnover based rent.

The council emphasised in order to end the lease an agreement would need to be reached between the parties, with a payment due from John Lewis. No funding has yet been released for the proposed refurbishment works.

The authority added that it retained the benefit of the building and the overall site, and it would suffer no financial loss.

Nalin Seneviratne, Sheffield City Council’s director of city centre development, said: The planned closure of John Lewis is sad news. As Cole Brothers in 1847, then as John Lewis, it has been a retail landmark in our city for decades. We also need to think about those staff who, after an already challenging year, now face more uncertainty. We will work to provide as much support as we can to those who may be impacted.

It’s no secret that high streets across the country have faced challenges over the past decade, and no one could have prepared for the impacts of the global pandemic. But Sheffield is a resilient city, and we already have in place ambitious plans for a city centre that competes on a global stage, Seneviratne said.

Our Heart of the City plans will deliver between 5,500 and 7,000 jobs, create social spaces, homes, showcase our incredible culture, deliver restaurants, workspace, creative hubs – with a focus on socialising, alongside a fantastic retail offering that supports new and existing businesses.

Seneviratne said that there is a lot to look forward to in Sheffield and we’re already seeing great progress, with West Bar’s leisure and office spaces, Cambridge Street Collective’s cultural and entertainment hub, multimillion-pound investment in the Moor and Fargate, and proposals for the 6,000 sq ft Pounds Park, with a café, bar, terrace, water play area and urban orchard.

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis added: Losing John Lewis in Sheffield deals another blow to retail workers who are among those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. My heart goes out to the workers and their families whose livelihoods are at risk.

Jarvis said that the store has been a cornerstone of the city’s retail offer for more than a century. I am working with John Lewis and Sheffield City Council to determine what this means for those whose jobs are now on the line and what can be done to support them.

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