Sheffield city centre masterplan would cause ‘substantial harm’ to historic fabric, says heritage group

How Block B of Heart of the City II would look on Pinstone Street in Sheffield
How Block B of Heart of the City II would look on Pinstone Street in Sheffield

The latest plans for a £500 million transformation of Sheffield city centre have come under fire from heritage campaigners.

The next phase of the Heart of the City II revamp would open up a ‘destructive gap’ in a unique part of the city’s streetscape, according to Joined Up Heritage Sheffield.

How the site, with the former Athol Hotel in the foreground, currently looks

How the site, with the former Athol Hotel in the foreground, currently looks

The charity, which represents organisations and individuals fighting to preserve the city’s most historic features, has set out its opposition to Sheffield Council's latest proposals to renovate the area stretching from the top of The Moor to the back of John Lewis.

READ MORE: Heart of the City II plans submitted for another block of £500m Sheffield development

While it welcomes some aspects of the planning applications, it is highly critical of others - especially the proposed demolition of the former Athol Hotel, the 19th century mock Tudor-fronted building at the corner of Pinstone Street and Charles Street.

The council has previously claimed it has done its best to preserve the old alongside the new within blocks B and C of the Heart of the City II development, which would see the Victorian building Laycock House retained and the distinctive ‘Pepper Pot’ building partially preserved.

READ MORE: This is what the next two buildings in Sheffield’s £500m Heart of the City II transformation could look like

But it argues that the former Athol Hotel contributes little to the conservation area and preserving that building would hinder the wider regeneration plans, including shops, offices, apartments and new places to eat and drink.

Joined Up Heritage Sheffield disagrees, however, claiming the plans as they stand would cause ‘substantial harm’ to the conservation area.

In a statement, the charity said: “The proposed demolition of the former Athol Hotel would open up a destructive gap in a unique city centre streetscape.

READ MORE: The story of Sheffield’s Athol Hotel - ‘this is where the Sheffield we know today begins’

“This – like other aspects of the applications – shows a lack of respect for planning law, policy and guidance in dealing with part of the city centre conservation area.

“All this raises hard questions about how far the Council really understands the value of heritage and fundamental role in Sheffield’s future economic and social development, or its obligations as a planning authority, or the impact of its own project on heritage assets…

“Overall, the proposals will result in substantial harm to the significance of the conservation area and would also harm the setting of listed buildings.

“This cannot be right. JUHS has made detailed and constructive proposals for ways in which the council could not only achieve its objectives for redevelopment but make best use of our dwindling stock of irreplaceable heritage assets.”

As well as retaining the Athol Hotel, the group has called, among other measures, for the spire on the Pepper Pot building to be reinstated and for the mass and height of the proposed building behind Laycock House to be reduced.

The planning applications for blocks B and C of Heart of the City II have yet to be decided but, if approved, construction could start as early as this spring and the work could be completed by the end of 2020.