CONSTRUCTION is due to start this year on an £80m engineering department for the University of Sheffield after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles decided against intervening over the proposed demolition of the Edwardian wing of the former Jessop Hospital.
His decision not to ‘call in’ the application was welcomed by the university, which predicted it would pave the way for an extra 1,600 engineering students and 400 staff within seven years.
But there was dismay and outrage among conservationists, who questioned the protection afforded to listed buildings and warned that other historic structures in the city could now be under threat.
Proposals to demolish the Edwardian wing prompted one of the biggest planning disputes in Sheffield for years.
After the council gave its support to the university’s strategy, Mr Pickles had the power to ‘call in’ the application to determine it himself, with the option of a public inquiry.
However, the council was told this week that he had “carefully considered” the key issues on “conserving and enhancing the historic environment” and was satisfied to allow the verdict to be reached locally.
“The Government is committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible,” says a letter from his office.
Now the university can proceed with its scheme to clear the Jessop Wing for the development, which it argues is essential for its ambitions of creating a world class engineering complex, which will make “ a huge difference to the Sheffield and regional economy”.
More than 4,000 people had signed a protest petition, arguing that the city could not afford to lose more of its historic buildings.