MORE than 100 public comments have been made ahead of a decision on controversial plans for demolition of the Grade II listed Edwardian wing at the former Jessop Hospital and replacement with an £80 million engineering block by Sheffield University.
Sheffield Council’s city centre, south and east planning board will rule on the proposals at a meeting from 2pm on Monday.
The project has attracted 122 comments - 67 against, and 55 in favour.
Planning officers are recommending approval due to the economic benefit to Sheffield of the development, and because the university says it would be difficult and costly to incorporate the historic building into its plans.
But a campaign group aiming to save the historic building has secured the support of a former Lord Mayor, architects, academics and conservationists.
Former Lord Mayor and retired Ecclesall Lib Dem councillor, Sylvia Dunkley, said: “So many of Sheffield’s historic buildings have been swept away on the basis their demolition is justified by ‘exceptional circumstances’ that it makes one wonder how exceptional the circumstances have to be to ensure their survival.
“Surely the loss of the Edwardian wing and the way the proposed engineering building will overwhelm the remaining Victorian building is too high a price to pay.”
Valerie Bayliss, who chairs the Victorian Society’s South Yorkshire group, said: “This is nothing to do with stopping the university’s ambitions.
“The university has to show the benefits will outweigh the harm caused by demolition. It’s clear they have failed to properly investigate alternatives.
“They are hooked on one design and won’t consider any other - but there is always an alternative, and any competent firm of architects could design one for this hugely important site.
“It seems like no sincere effort has been made to pursue plans which would conserve the Edwardian building.”
Howard Greaves, of the Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society, added: “The university will gain only five per cent extra space and make 10 per cent savings on building costs by demolishing this piece of our history.
“To lose this building would be a kick in the teeth for the people of Sheffield.”
Sheffield Conservation Advisory Group - Sheffield Council’s own panel which includes prominent architects, conservationists and members of the business community - has also criticised the university’s plans.
The group said in a report: “There appeared to be some inefficiencies in the use of space in the proposed building, which, if eliminated, could ensure the retention of the Edwardian wing.”
Sheffield Sustainable Development and Design Panel, another council advisory group, said: “The panel was mindful of the rigorous requirements that needed to be met to justify the demolition of the Edwardian block, which it did not consider had been demonstrated.”
Those supporting the development include many university academics and business representatives.
Keith Lilley, the university’s director of estates and facilities management, said: “The proposed investment is essential to deliver the economic investment that the city needs, investing in jobs, the city’s heritage, engineering and educational excellence.
“Jobs and inward investment to the city region are being realised because of the excellence of the faculty of engineering, such as the Rolls Royce investment at the Advanced Manufacturing Park at Catcliffe.
“The faculty facilities are full. Expansion is now being accommodated on a temporary basis.
“The university has considered the options over a long period of time, spending significant sums on design for various options to properly and comprehensively consider the site and the Jessop Edwardian wing.”