Sheffield: The Outdoor City strategy

The outdoors industry is about more than ‘harnessing economic potential’ and in developing the city’s future strategy our vision can be cultural as well as economic.

Sheffield: The Outdoor City website was recently launched to promote Sheffield as the UK’s leading destination for people seeking outdoor adventure, city culture, and rural escapes. It is written by a range of contributors from Sheffield’s outdoors communities on the themes of Run, Walk, Climb, and Ride.

As I wrote my contribution to The Outdoor City I didn’t initially realise that it is part of a strategy launched by Creative Sheffield and Marketing Sheffield (parts of Sheffield City Council) to rebrand and revitalise Sheffield’s outdoors industry.

A draft strategy document aimed at ‘Harnessing the economic potential of Sheffield’s outdoor offer’ has been developed and is out to consultation:

The vision: Sheffield, The Outdoor City will be internationally renowned for its outdoors offer, its quality places and outdoor people.

The Mission: To grow the brand ‘The Outdoor City’ by investing in places that appeal and attract, aligned with supporting infrastructure that enables residents, businesses, and visitors to have easy access to high quality outdoor recreation experiences.

A wide range of interests are represented in the group that formed the strategy, and the drivers behind it include Trade, Talent Attraction, Driving Tourism, and Raising Participation.

To allow this to happen in a sustainable way the strategy recognises that the city must increase capacity and improve infrastructure. One of the priority actions is to create outdoor recreation zones so that a range of quality ‘outdoor assets’ are developed across the city. This could mean that already popular areas do not have to absorb large numbers of new participants, and new areas of the city can be developed.

The draft strategy also recognises that the distinctiveness of the city goes beyond its physical attributes – “It is in Sheffield’s residents and businesses. In their skills, knowledge, know-how, and passion for the outdoors, Sheffield people are at the heart of the city’s outdoor assets.”

Another priority action that could benefit those people is to develop Sheffield’s signature sector – as the premier location for outdoors businesses. This could mean more support and investment for existing businesses, as well as opportunities for new businesses and individuals that work or aspire to work in the outdoors industry.

All of these priorities are important and will be good for the economy in Sheffield, but the outdoors industry is about more than ‘harnessing economic potential.’ Our vision can be cultural as well as economic and our strategy will be missing something if it doesn’t acknowledge what is at the heart of the outdoors community in Sheffield and elsewhere. Participation in outdoors activity is life enhancing, empowering, and we have a strong connection with and respect for the outdoors environment and each other.

As a person ‘born and bred’ in Sheffield, in the past I have been happy to see the city fly under the radar a little. But now is the time for Sheffield’s outdoors folk to come into our own, and partners are working together across the city to develop this future strategy.

It is especially important that alongside the politicians and the economists the strong and respected voices from the outdoors world recognise the influence that they have. When we combine our outdoors hearts with our business heads, we really will be in a powerful position to realise our potential as we invite others to join us in The Outdoors City.

The consultation runs from 19 October to 29 November, read the strategy and submit your comments here.

NOTE – I am employed by Sheffield City Council in a separate department. My work is unconnected to The Outdoor City project and all views are my own.

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