Letter: The carbon cost of demolition and rebuild

This letter was written by Robin Hughes, Hallamshire Historic Buildings

Friday, 11th June 2021, 12:32 pm
Rare & Racy. Picture: Brian Eyre.

The refusal of the demolition of the Georgian building on Devonshire Street, former home to the much-loved Rare and Racy, and which may be Sheffield's oldest purpose-built shops, is another nail in the coffin of the fallacy that the new and modern is automatically good anywhere.

The committee reinforced what is repeatedly stated in local and national planning policy: that well-designed developments respect local character and identity. Members thought the replacement decent enough in isolation, but utterly out of place in Devonshire Street. They voted down their officers' recommendation to approve.

Members have shown the same good sense on several occasions recently. They recognise that Sheffield's historic buildings and streets have great potential, and that given the proven economic, social, health and well-being benefits of a high-quality historic environment, we should make the best use of the places that are valued by local people.

Another fallacy to be nailed is that new buildings are better for the environment. A new report from the European Academies Science Advisory Council highlights the carbon cost of demolition and rebuild. It calls for policy-makers to discourage or even prohibit demolition and rebuild in favour of renovation. They are the latest of many.

The environmental cost wasn't even discussed in committee. The report they received acknowledges that re-use of existing buildings is more sustainable than redevelopment, but repeats the claim that new buildings are more energy efficient. We cannot afford to continue with such outdated ideas. The committee are to be commended for their foresight in valuing the character that we have inherited. Their next step must be to recognise its value to the planet.