Heritage campaigners have voiced mixed views over plans to turn one of Sheffield’s most historic buildings into a Starbucks café.
Hallamshire Historic Buildings said proposals to convert the Grade-II* listed Carbook Hall, in Atterclife, were a ‘postive development’ following an arson attack at the site in April.
But, in a lettter submitted to Sheffield Council as part of the planning process, the group said the drive-thru was ‘less welcome’ and would ‘detract from the character’ of the building, which dates back to at least the 12th century.
The letter states: “This is one of Sheffield's most important historic buildings. Recent damage by fire and reports that items from the building may have been offered for sale are proof of its vulnerability, and bringing it back into active use is to be welcomed as providing some protection against the risks that it now faces.
“Repair and restoration to the upper floor are especially welcome, even though the absence of any plan to bring this level back into use is unfortunate.
“So long as conditions are imposed ensuring those repairs, and the protection of all aspects of the fabric of the existing historic building, for example the remains of the old kitchen and the leading in the windows (of uncertain date but visible in early 20th century photographs), this proposal is a positive development.
“For the ongoing protection of the amenity, the applicant should undertake effective security and monitoring 24 hours a day, for the full 20 year term of the lease.”
It added: “The drive-thru element is less welcome. The additional roadway with its associated traffic and signage clutter will detract from the character of the site. The nature of a drive-thru operation will discourage customers from accessing and enjoying the historic part of the building. To be acceptable, the applicant must demonstrate that it is necessary to the economic viability of the project.”
The group has also raised objections to a sign on the side of the building claiming it would be ‘entirely out of character' and had ‘absolutely no place on a historic structure’.
The letter said: “The proposals include no fewer than six large and prominent displays of the company identity but there is not a single reference to the identity of the historic building.
“For a significant part of the building's life it served as a public house with signboards carrying the name ‘Carbrook Hall Hotel’. Signage identifying the building and its historic importance would enhance the significance of the building and make its history more accessible to the public.”
Under the proposals, submitted by DLP Planning on behalf of the owner West Street Leisure, the historic parts of the building – including the celebrated Oak Room and the former kitchen - would be retained and restored.
The ground floor would become a drive-thru Starbucks café, with the coffee chain using the first floor for training.
Some of the more modern extensions, including a garage and toilet blocks, would be demolished and a new single story extension would be added.
There would be a lawn and outdoor seating, along with 32 parking spaces.
The application states: “Converting the building into a café/restaurant ensures that the public (customers) will still be able to enjoy and appreciate the historical features which are located within the building, such as the panelling and ornate ceiling in the Oak Room.
“The plans will not significantly harm the significance of the building and would provide a viable use for the building of public benefit.”
The building is reputed to be one of Yorkshire’s most-haunted places, with tales of mischievous spirits throwing open doors, smashing bottles and even locking people in the toilets against their will.