Campaigners fighting to save independent Sheffield shops from being bulldozed are today celebrating raising the £15,000 needed to launch a legal challenge.
Sheffield Council agreed controversial plans to knock down shops on Devonshire Street in the city centre, so they could be replaced with flats, a restaurant and shops, in March – despite more than 20,000 objections.
Since then protesters have been working towards a judicial review to overturn the decision, which they believe was flawed.
This week they made a final push to raise the full amount needed to cover legal costs in case permission for a review is refused – having already raised thousands through an art auction, gigs, and online crowdfunding from supporters.
And tonight they reached the milestone, with donations flooding in thick and fast through the day.
Nick Roscoe, from the Save Devonshire Street thanked everyone who had helped.
He said: “The community has shown it is totally behind us and I think if there is any chance of holding the council to account then we have got to take it.”
A petition started by poet Jonathan Butcher attracted 18,000 signatures against the plans – which affect a block that survived World War Two air raid bombings – and was the largest ever received by the council.
And those who signed also donated £7,000 in 24 hours after an email appeal this week.
Jonathan said: “It’s been heart warming to watch the pledges come in, to get more than £7,000 in 24 hours is astounding. We knew everything was in place and the legal bid was already half funded, but the petition was able to give it a vital lift. I sent out a message to petitioners on Monday and they have responded - they clearly don’t like being ignored.”
Celebrities backed the cause, inspired by the three shops affected as well as the heritage, character and unique identity of the area. Famous Sheffield singer Jarvis Cocker, frontman of city band Pulp, hailed secondhand book shop Rare and Racy, which has been on the street since 1969, as a ‘global treasure.’
However, council planning officers told members of the authority’s planning committee who made the decision that the weight that could be given to the buildings’ conservation was ‘limited’ and the application from Primesite will have a ‘relatively positive impact’ on the area.
The authority insisted its hands were tied by national guidelines and that strength of feeling over the potential loss of the businesses was not a valid reason for refusal. And council chiefs have said the council would defend the decision if it goes to a review – although campaigners are likely to argue the authority has not respected planning laws protecting heritage.
Once the review application is submitted, a judge could decide the campaigners have a case based on the paperwork, or it could go to the High Court for a hearing in August.
So far, more than 700 people have supported the online fundraising appeal – also backed by artists who have donated music, T-shirts or prints to give to supporters in return,
n To pledge, or for information on the campaign, visit www.savedevstreet.org.uk