Blow for campaigners as legal bid to save Sheffield shops rejected

Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall over the Devonshire Street plans
Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall over the Devonshire Street plans
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Campaigners fighting to save a stretch of independent Sheffield shops are ‘disappointed’ after top judges rejected their legal appeal.

The Royal Courts of Justice in London blocked a bid to launch a judicial review into Sheffield Council’s decision to knock down the block of shops on Devonshire Street in the city centre so it can be turned into flats, a restaurant and shops.

A petition signed by more than 18,000 people – the biggest ever received by the council – was submitted against the plans and hundreds gathered outside the planning meeting in March to protest.

Nick Roscoe, from the Save Devonshire Street campaign, said: “We are very disappointed.

“It is obviously very important that from now on the planning committee needs to take more seriously Sheffield people’s feelings about areas full of character and independent shops and try to protect them.

“The council was concerned over costs of a possible planning appeal, but a decision on heritage ground could have been successfully defended.”

The group raised more than £15,000 to cover the legal costs of the legal process, which they hoped would overturn the decision.

Campaigners believe that, because of a witness statement that Historic England provided at the last minute, the judges decided not to allow a judicial review.

“The statement from Historic England said that even if they had been consulted about this application, they would not have wanted to comment”, added Mr Roscoe.

“It is a shame that Historic England didn’t listen to the feelings of the people in Sheffield and hasn’t been more supportive so that the shops could be saved.”

Mr Justice Mitting said he was convinced that Historic England, previously English Heritage, would not want to comment on the application and therefore, even if Sheffield Council had made an error in law by not consulting, he was bound by the rules not to give permission for a judicial review, as quashing the planning decision would serve no purpose.

When the planning decision was made, councillors said their hands were tied by national guidelines.

It was also said by planning officers in reports that the weight that could be given to the buildings’ conservation was ‘limited.’