Today marks 30 years since the opening of Meadowhall, so what better time to look back at how one of the region’s biggest shopping centres came to be?
The building of Meadowhall came at a difficult time in Sheffield’s history as deindustrialisation led to job losses and economic problems for large parts of the country, particularly the mining and industrial communities of the north. It was constructed on brownfield land which had for centuries been occupied by a number of metalwork companies, including Meadowhall Ironworks, Hadfield’s, Shardlow’s and Arthur Lee’s, all of which were steel works. The last occupant of the site, Hadfield’s, was closed in 1983 and planning permission for Meadowhall granted in 1987, with construction beginning the following year.
Meadowhall opened with capacity for over 200 shops and welcomed 19.8 million visitors in its’ first year, a figure than has since risen to 30 million people annually. Since opening Meadowhall has continued to grow and evolve; the Vue Cinema was opened by Catherine Zeta Jones in 1993 as a Warner Bros Theatre and in 1994, Meadowhall was made accessible to more of Sheffield through its’ inclusion in the new Supertram network. In 2003 The Source was opened adjacent to Meadowhall as a training facility for local people, retailers and businesses, and in recent years a series of refurbishments have kept the centre at the forefront of modern shopping. The economic impact Meadowhall has had on the city is undeniably huge. At a glance, Meadowhall provides up to 8,500 jobs during peak times, with 94% of employees living in the Sheffield City Region. It’s £1.8 million community project has also helped local charities, people and communities through a combination of investment and fundraising. And perhaps most impressively, a penny of every pound spent in the Sheffield City Region can be traced back to Meadowhall’s activities.
Despite all this, it’s not always been plain sailing for Meadowhall. Like many shopping centres, Meadowhall has been blamed for the decline in visitors to Sheffield’s city centre and the subsequent closure of shops. Compared to a national average of 8%, Sheffield has lost nearly 18% of the shops in the city centre, with Rotherham faring even worse. However, Meadowhall can’t be held solely responsible, increasing business rates and the boom in online shopping over the last few years has also led to less money being spent on the high street. Meadowhall was faced with more challenges as a result of the Sheffield Floods of 2007. At its’ peak, the water in Meadowhall reached 6ft high, leaving many of the ground floor shops shut for 2-3 months while repair and refurbishment work took place, with flood gates being installed to prevent any future flooding.
While most of us are very familiar with Meadowhall, less well known are the centre’s impressive environmental credentials. For many years, Meadowhall has sought to reduce waste and increase energy efficiency, as well as keeping up with technological developments such as improvements in electric car charging facilities. In 2004, Meadowhall became the first shopping centre in the country to have an onsite recycling facilities which allows Meadowhall to recycle 97% of its’ waste, with the rest incinerated rather than sent to landfill. A rainwater harvesting tank and electric car charging points were installed in 2006 and 2008 respectively, followed by the drilling of a borehole, ensuring over 90% of water used for toilet flushing is collected onsite. Between 2010-2015, this amounted to more than 92 million litres of waters not sourced from the mains. More recently, Meadowhall went 100% LED throughout and in 2019, almost 3500 solar panels were installed onto the centre’s roofs to generate 770,000kWhs of energy per year.
So while Meadowhall has faced some criticism over the last 30 years, there’s no doubt that the opportunities its’ provided to local people have been invaluable to Sheffield’s post-deindustrialisation economy. And with expansion plans in place it looks like we can look forward to shopping at Meadowhall for many years to come.