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I live in Sheffield, home of the monstrosity/shopper's paradise that is Meadowhall, and as such have rather strong feelings about it. With this in mind, in the interests of creating a balanced w/u I have decided to write a 'pro' writeup and a 'con' writeup.

Pro: Meadowhall is truly a marvel - over 270 different stores over a leasable area of 1.4 million square feet. Essentially a large American-style mall, Meadowhall boasts an 11-screen cinema, food court, conference centre, gym, warehouse space...the list goes on and on, not forgetting its world famous green glass roof.

Construction began in June 1988 and lasted 27 months. 2,000,000 bricks and 10 miles of drainage pipe was used, and, for the environmentally aware, over 15,000 trees were planted. As well as finishing 'on time and on budget!', Meadowhall is probably one of the most accessible places in Britain - there are two train stations, a Supertram terminus, 16 bus bays and a further 14 bus stops around the centre, direct access by car or coach from Junction 34 of the M1 (North or Southbound), and several miles of bike path put in place in the surrounding area with bike lockers and stands. Cycling around a heavy industrial area like Lower Don Valley might not sound all that fun, but a lot of the trails are canalside meanderings with pleasant views.

All of this makes Meadowhall (according to its own literature) within 60 minutes travel of 8.2 million people, or 1 in 8 Britons. There are maps spaced regularly around the complex, making it hard to get lost. And if you're in the mood for something a little less corporate, there's always The Lanes, an eclectic collection of independent stores.

Current opening times are 10am - 9pm Monday to Friday, 9am - 7pm Saturday and 11am-5pm Sunday, and it opens much longer in the run up to Christmas, so finding a time to go isn't hard.One would find it hard to deny that all this makes for a shopping centre of extremely high calibre.

Con: Well, if you are like me you hate anything this big, this representative of consumption, but go somewhere else for that arguement - here is not the place. No, this is the place for mentioning that 'before work could commence, 100,000 m3 contaminated waste had to be removed from the site', and that 98,000 m3 of concrete was used in its construction.

Walking around Meadowhall, you are surrounded by dead eyed, soulless individuals, and fear that may be how you, too, appear. Shop after shop of identical merchandise, logo after logo burning themselves into your memory - this place truly deserves the name MeadowHell.

And while its opening hours mean that you can shop whenever you want, shops are fined according to floor space every time they are closed while Meadowhall is open - security guards are rarely seen except when enforcing this rule, particularly just before closing time. Of course, this hits hardest the 'eclectic collection of independent stores', having to shell out wages for a store they knew would be empty or pay a genuinely prohibitive fine.

Conclusion: Well, if you like malls then this is certainly one of the better ones this tiny island has to offer. But that comes with its own disadvantages. Good or bad, it is there.

UPDATE: I recently learned from someone employed at a shoe store in Meadowhall that there is a semi-secret police station underneath it - shoplifters beware - as well as roughly 1,000 body bags in case of mass death.

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