Councillors criticise “soulless office block” which could replace lost Rare & Racy in Sheffield

Councillors have criticised plans for a “soulless office block” which could replace three historic buildings in Sheffield city centre.

Monday, 5th April 2021, 9:45 am

Georgian buildings on Devonshire Street used to house independent shops including Rare & Racy, which opened in 1969 and sold second-hand books, music and art for almost 50 years.

Planning permission was granted in 2015 to demolish the shops and replace them with a three-storey building with ground floor offices and apartments above.

Now developers have come back with new plans to build a modern office block there instead.

ow the new Devonshire Street office would look (Image Cartwright Pickard)

City ward councillors Douglas Johnson, Martin Phipps and Ruth Mersereau have added their voices to another 64 objections.

The original plans were opposed by 20,000 people and there were demonstrations outside the Town Hall. Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker called Rare & Racy a ‘global treasure’.

Coun Phipps said: “There is no good reason for demolishing this core piece of heritage, a decent, solid, not-very-flashy building that epitomises so much of the Sheffield which residents find attractive.

“As a direct result of the council granting planning permission in 2015, the independent shops were pressured to leave, the site looks run down and it is detrimental to the area.

“Nevertheless, the answer is not to flatten it and finalise the tragedy of its loss but to revitalise it. There is hope for this fine setting if only its Sheffield heritage were respected. A soulless office block does none of this.”

Coun Johnson said the office would be contrary to the Devonshire Quarter Action Plan and draft City Centre Plan.

“The City Centre Plan was drawn up after the 20,000 signatures opposing the demolition of this block, such was the concern about the loss of these unique and quirky premises.

“That policy was adopted to address the deficiencies in the previous policy that allowed the 2015 planning permission to be granted so it should carry significant weight if it is to be meaningful.

“This is an opportunity for the council to demonstrate that support for its population.”

Planners are advising councillors to approve the office block at a meeting on Tuesday.