Horns are locked over Jessop engineering plan

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

THE Jessop controversy remained on the boil this week as the University of Sheffield pointed to independent research on the economic value to the city of its proposed £80m engineering complex - and conservationists “deplored” the prospect of the demolition of an Edwardian wing of the former hospital.

As a council verdict nears on the University’s application to replace the wing with a futuristic building, the “massive” impact on the local and regional economy was spelled out by consultants appointed by the University.

Construction of the development and its first year of operations will generate £44.5m for Sheffield’s economy, it is concluded. Then the expanded engineering faculty will produce almost £21m for the city every year, partly through income raised through the admittance of extra students who will be spending money in the local economy.

The new building has been designed to accommodate an additional 1,600 students by the end of the decade.

Additional benefits include the creation of up to 500 jobs during the construction phase, scheduled to take place between 2013 and 2015, and 623 new jobs once the building is up and running.

University Vice-Chancellor Prof Keith Burnett said the findings showed just how vital the new development will be, not only to the University, but also to the wider economy.

“At a time when many businesses in Sheffield and the wider Yorkshire region are struggling, it is clear that this massive construction project – the largest ever undertaken by the University of Sheffield – would have a huge impact in helping to support the economic recovery.

The report is by independent consultants Oxford Economics, who carried out the investigation on behalf of the University of Sheffield.

But opposition continues to be lodged by conservationists, who say Sheffield cannot afford to lose one of its listed buildings, and the University should be looking elsewhere for a location for its engineering complex.

Sheffield Conservation Advisory Group has “deplored” the proposed demolition of the Edwardian wing, which it argues was not simply an extension to the Victorian hospital, but had been “a building in its own right with a distinct contribution to the hospital”.

It makes an “important impact” on the townscape of Brook Hill, while the scale and detail of the proposed replacement are criticised in relation to the remaining Victorian wing, which has been restored by the University, and St George’s Church, a grade II* listed building.

Councillors were told this week that the group “did not think all the options, either for locating the engineering building on another site, or for developing the site while retaining the Edwardian wing, had been properly explored”.

The conservation group adds that very few listed buildings have been demolished since the beginning of the century “and none as important as the Jessop Edwardian wing”.

Letters of objection and support continue to be submitted to the council. One critic says: “There are plenty of places in town to build the proposed development that would not result in another one of Sheffield’s too few historic and much loved buildings being destroyed forever.”

But somebody born in the Jessop Hospital says: “I do not see any reason why it should be retained at the expense of progressive development within Sheffield.”