University engineers reply to Jessop protesters

Artist's impression of Sheffield University's planned new �80 million engineering block on the site of the old Jessop Hospital Edwardian wing.
Artist's impression of Sheffield University's planned new �80 million engineering block on the site of the old Jessop Hospital Edwardian wing.

THE University of Sheffield University has unveiled a model of its proposed £80m engineering block - as opposition emerges to the plans to demolish the Edwardian wing of the former Jessop Hospital.

University managers believe the redevelopment is needed to accommodate the growth of the Faculty of Engineering and to dramatically improve the condition of the working environment for students and staff.

But local conservationists are worried it will be at the expense of the city’s heritage, and say the building should be restored in a similar fashion to the Victorian wing, which now accommodates the Department of Music.

Sheffield Victorian Society and the Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society are preparing to object once a planning application has been made.

The University has created a model to indicate how the latest Jessop redevelopment would fit into the area.

Keith Lilley, director of estates and facilities management, said: “The exterior will have a diamond grid pattern as part of its design to be a low carbon building.

“The different panels, some of which will be opaque, will manage solar gain within the building and the facade will also assist with natural ventilation rather than relying on air conditioning.”

Mr Lilley said the new building would house laboratories and the majority of the university’s engineering plant and equipment. “Most engineering teaching will also be transferred to the new building,.”

Current engineering facilities in the Sir Frederick Mappin Building, Amy Johnson Building and Sir Robert Hadfield building are to be refurbished at a further cost of around £50m.

Mr Lilley said the proposal to demolish the listed hospital building - in place of previous plans to restore it as a ‘learning hub’ - had been developed because expansion of the University ‘outweighs’ the need to preserve it.

He said: “We have 40 listed buildings in the university’s property portfolio - we take heritage very seriously and we are one of Sheffield’s most serious investors in historic buildings.

“But there are times when the need for economic investment is more pressing than the need for that building to be preserved.”

Mr Lilley said around 150 people attended consultation events organised by the University about its plans for the site.

“Generally, people were positive about the proposals and some who were sceptical to begin with warmed to the idea of what we are proposing.”

A planning application is expected to be submitted to the council in August.

However, Valerie Bayliss, who chairs Sheffield Victorian Society, said: “We believe the Edwardian building should be restored like the Victorian wing, which the university has refurbished.”

The society said the University had previously set aside funds to restore the building, but had changed it plans.

Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society is also concerned, as is local history campaigner Ron Clayton.

He said: The University has made a fantastic job of the 1878 building. To save one and to disregard the other is illogical.”

Mr Lilley said the University would welcome the opportunity to discuss the project with the societies.