Fears of a ‘precedent’ for Sheffield’s historic sites

Sheffield University's planned new �80 million engineering block on the former Jessop Hospital site.'Pictured is the proposed building at corner of Broad Lane and St George's Terrace.

Sheffield University's planned new �80 million engineering block on the former Jessop Hospital site.'Pictured is the proposed building at corner of Broad Lane and St George's Terrace.

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CAMPAIGNERS say they fear for the future of historic buildings after a controversial Sheffield planning battle took its final twist.

The demolition of the Grade II listed Edwardian wing of the former Jessop Hospital can now go ahead – after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles decided not to ‘call in’ for review the planning permission granted by Sheffield Council.

Thousands of people signed a petition against plans by The University of Sheffield to see the building turned into an £81 million engineering block.

Nick Roscoe, a campaigner with the Save Jessop Hospital group, said: “We are disgusted, particularly with the council which has completely failed to represent people of Sheffield who made a very strong case through a petition of more than 4,000 signatures, pleading with the council and Eric Pickles to preserve our listed buildings.”

Mr Roscoe, Meersbrook, said the decision ‘set a precedent which meant Grade II listed buildings in future are not safe’. He warned: “This will be the first of many.”

The University of Sheffield welcomed the decision. Construction of the new building is due to begin later this year, complete by 2016.

Keith Lilley, director of estates and facilities management, said: “We are extremely pleased we can now begin to progress this essential new development – the centrepiece for a £154m investment in our engineering estate.

“We are committed to investing in a high quality, stunning building which will be the centrepiece for the Faculty of Engineering’s continued success and a source of enormous pride for the city.”

* Campaigners called for the Edwardian wing to be retained in the engineering block to preserve the historic site

* They were supported by a former Lord Mayor, architects, academics and conservationists

* Sheffield Conservation Advisory Group – Sheffield Council’s own panel – also criticised the plans.

* The plans were approved in December by the council

* In January it was revealed that a senior planning officer had warned in an internal email that the plans breached planning guidelines

* Plans were upheld after going back to councillors because planners failed to consult several bodies

* It was confirmed yesterday that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles would not ‘call in’ the planning decision for review

* The university has said it cannot incorporate the old hospital block in its design

* Academic leaders say the block could be the ‘best’ engineering department in the world

* The university also says an increase in engineering student and staff numbers by 2020 will boost the city’s economy by ‘more than £20 million each year’.