Gaunt Shopping Parade is situated off Blackstock Road in Gleadless Valley. It was built in the 1960s to cater for residents of the newly-built estate. The shopping parade consists of several retail units that surround a communal space. However, Gaunt Shops has faced many difficult challenges in recent years. Although all but one unit is occupied at the moment, the outside communal space is underused and neglected.
Gleadless Valley lies about 3.5 kilometres south-east of Sheffield city centre. Until the middle of the 19th century, Gleadless Valley was an isolated rural area. Urban development of the valley began in the late 1950’s and continued into the1960’s, with the valley’s housing estates being built. This development was remarkable for the way in which a network of open spaces based around the valley’s existing woodlands was retained and the buildings made use of the contours and contrasts of the landscape. On the other hand, Gleadless Valley lacked a variety of building types, with only a row of shops, a pub or two and a church intermingled between the housing.
Since then, sadly, the estate has been neglected and has not been developed much. The only major change has been cladding and partial demolition of some of the towers. Socially, it has become one of Sheffield’s poorest areas with high unemployment rates, low school attendance and poor education attainment levels, and low home ownership.
Gleadless valley seems isolated from the rest of Sheffield, the steep topography, dense woodland and golf course cut it off from surrounding areas. In fact many of the children find it challenging to get to school, and have to resort to cutting through the golf course.
However, Gleadless Valley also has many overlooked positive features, for example the surrounding woodlands and the highest point in Sheffield. Gleadless Valley’s main asset is its people. Most families have lived here for three generations, and there are a number of active community groups.
All of this is reflected in Gaunt Shops’ communal space, which in spite of the fact that the Gleadless Valley Community Forum (GVCF), church, pub and bus stop are located there, is still not the lively central public space it should be. Blank walls, obstructed views, and in the evening the blank shuttered shops, compound the sense of isolation.
Any proposal to revitalize the communal area will need to tackle a number of issues:
- Lack of community ownership of space
- Lack of character and identity
- Perceived negative image of the space
- Lack of youth owned, recreational spaces
- Impact on Gleadless Valley as a whole
Over the course of 9 months various activities and workshops around Gaunt Shops’ communal space will bring different demographics and groups together. These interventions will not only physically change this communal area but will also build the capacity of its residents to take the lead in the further revitalisation of Gleadless Valley in the future. The interventions build on the strengths of Gleadless Valley – namely its active community group, the Gleadless Valley Community Forum (GVCF).
As a starting point, existing planned activities (such as Open Space Gallery Workshop) will be used to initiate new workshops and events that will bring an immediate and tangible change to the communal space. This will be the seed for forming a wider ‘This is Gleadless Valley’ action platform. The platform will be a space for locals to come together to shape the development of their area. It will also make new connections with other groups (and institutions) to share skills and to learn from their experiences.
All of this will not only immediately change this space for the better, with different activities happening in it and with small scale temporary improvements (such as seating, painting, canopies), but it should also help to build community leadership, change perception of the area and even provide participating residents with various practical skills/training (such as carpentry, accounting, event management, planning, media etc).
Once up and running the ’This is Gleadless Valley’ action platform will work towards future more permanent improvements of Gleadless Valley led by the community itself.