College plan for Sheffield landmark

18-storey tower of student flats for Pond Street/Flat Street. Design by Axis Architecture.
18-storey tower of student flats for Pond Street/Flat Street. Design by Axis Architecture.

THE derelict Head Post Office in Fitzalan Square is due to be converted into a college for overseas students as part of a proposed £16m development that includes a neighbouring 18-storey tower of student flats.

Plans have been submitted to the council with a view to the teaching accommodation being ready by July next year and the accommodation more than 270 students by July 2015.

Pictured in Sheffield City Centre the old Post Office

Pictured in Sheffield City Centre the old Post Office

Details have yet to be assessed by the council, although the prospect of the restoration of the old post office, a listed building that closed in 1999, will be welcomed across the board.

Steve Burlaga, director of Sheffield-based Axis Architecture, which is working with London-based regeneration specialists Langland Developments, said: “It’s a beautiful building and it’s a shame that it has been ravaged, but it will be restored to its splendour. We are confident of that.”

The council will hope that the scheme can be a catalyst to improving the appearance of Fitzalan Square.

It is also another sign of the importance of international students to the city’s universities and the local economy.

The former Head Post Office is near the main campus of Sheffield Hallam University, while plans have also been drawn up for an international college and adjoining student accommodation between Broad Lane and Garden Street, next to the University of Sheffield.

The proposed developments are designed to help overseas students improve their English and settle into academic life before starting degree courses.

Conversion of the post office that operated in the square for almost 90 years would be a huge spin-off after long-running concerns over its condition.

Both the main ornate hall and spiral staircase are due to be restored, with the hall possibly becoming a restaurant. Other uses envisaged at ground level include shops, including a small supermarket, and a bar and gym.

The college is due to be located on the upper three floors, with a refectory in the basement. Likely to come under particular council scrutiny is such a tall structure at the corner of Pond Street and Flat Street, overlooking the bus station.

At 18 storeys, it is designed to accommodate 278 students above two floors of communal uses such as a lounge and a cafe/bar and a shop.

“The whole idea is to get more vibrancy at that end of the building to draw people in,” said Mr Burlaga, who is working on the project with his colleague, Ben Otter.

A previous scheme - by a separate developer - envisaged a hotel on the corner, while plans for the former post office that have fallen by the wayside have been based around a mix of uses including offices, shops and a hotel.

Already Langland Developments are in legal discussions with a potential end user for the project, said Mr Burlaga.

City planners will prepare a report for councillors on all the implications.

One of the conditions could be a contribution towards the sprucing up of Fitzalan Square, which has a statue of Edward VII in the middle.

The square was given a facelift by the council ten years ago, but remains something of a city centre backwater.

“Everybody is keen to revive Fitzalan Square,” said Mr Burlaga. “The main thing is to stop it being used as a bus roundabout and deliver it more as a small civic space.”

The post office, built in 1910, closed 14 years ago when new premises opened in the Co-op store in Angel Street.