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South Yorkshire is dying

I love where I’m from. Rotherham and Sheffield are very much home to me, they’re where I feel I fit in the most.

Greg Devine

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Cream coloured map of South Yorkshire, featuring Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.

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Evidently, my love for the region isn’t mirrored in Parliament. Levelling up? Feels more like trying not to be relegated.

 

Recently, Yorkshire lost an international airport, which was situated in Doncaster. This former town is now a city, yet the first recognisable thing to happen since receiving city status is the loss of the only airport in the area. Not a great start. In Barnsley, a third of children live in poverty. How is this acceptable? At times, it feels as if South Yorkshire just doesn’t exist. Sure, Barnsley has seen its town centre revitalised, but this isn’t enough. It’s no good having nice shops and eateries if residents can’t afford to buy anything.

 

Where’s the levelling up money gone? It’s not been spent on transport. My village doesn’t receive a single bus on a Sunday now. Trains running through Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley are old and unfit for purpose. Just last week, I travelled from Leeds to Sheffield, a busy route that, if done right, would help all of Yorkshire secure better jobs. The train servicing that route was built in the 1980s—how can this possibly provide a service that meets standards expected in the 21st Century? The last real investment in transport was the Tram-Train. That was in 2018, though it was supposed to have been in service in 2015. That’s far too long to go without any investment in the region’s decrepit transport system.

 

Sheffield seems to be falling away. Every time I visit, I see more and more businesses shutting down—in particular, nightclubs, which once contributed to a vibrant nightlife across the city. HS2 isn’t going to hit much of Sheffield, regardless of what the Tories will tell you. There won’t be super high-speed trains coming through Sheffield, either; they’ll just be newer trains running at the same speed they do now, until they reach the East Midlands Parkway. Once again, proof that no cares about South Yorkshire.

 

The region is clearly a great place for businesses. Look at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). It’s home to companies like Boeing and McLaren as well as the University of Sheffield. In fairness, it’s being extended, and with the Waverly housing development next to it, there will be the opportunity for skilled workers to live and work there. That’s great, but this still doesn’t detract from the fact that the transport links are atrocious. Your choice is between bus and car, because the AMRC is nowhere near a train station. There are no mass transit solutions, like the tram or Metro. There’s the M1 and limited parking. This simply isn’t enough to allow skilled workers in Barnsley or Doncaster to access the AMRC.


completely full and occupied car park

I don’t even want to get started on Rotherham. It’s my hometown, yet I almost feel embarrassed to say I live there; I often say Sheffield instead. Its town centre feels unsafe in daylight, never mind when it gets to night-time. Half the shops are boarded up. The colleges aren’t up to standard. The most recent improvements to the town that I can think of involved a new Tesco (wow!—not) and the building of a new football stadium (which is great for me as a Rotherham United fan, but offers nothing to anybody else).

 

South Yorkshire could be an advanced manufacturing powerhouse, but not without investment from the government. Its potential is unrivalled in my opinion, yet those in charge don’t appear to share my viewpoint. Instead, we’re left to watch as more and more people across the region slip into poverty.