Conservation campaigners today warned Sheffield’s £480 million retail quarter scheme could cause a ‘significant deterioration’ to a city centre street.
One fears the plans could leave Sheffield ‘bland buildings’ which is ‘just going to be like any other city’.
Proposals for the highly anticipated new city centre shopping district with offices, restaurants and flats were submitted by Sheffield Council earlier this year.
Three developers have been shortlisted to work on the scheme.
But Sheffield Conservation Advisory Group has reservations over aspects of the proposals, which suggest creating a pedestrianised extension of Fargate through the current John Lewis store in Barker’s Pool and a new department store on Charter Square.
They are concerned how the extension would affect Cambridge Street, which has two listed buildings and is of ‘major historical significance’.
They oppose the demolition of the former Sportsman pub, another building, and treatment which would leave ‘little more than a facade’ of the old Sunday School.
“The group considers the proposals as they stand would result in a significant deterioration of the townscape of this part of the conservation area,” warns their report to the council’s planning committee.
Campaigners said current plans were an improvement on the former Sevenstone scheme – shelved after long delays, – and welcomed the retention of Leah’s Yard as a food court.
But they voiced concerns over how proposed new blocks would ‘dominate the skyline’ over Palatime Chambers, the scale and massing of some new buildings and the views of the quarter from key locations such as the Peace Gardens.
The proposed height of buildings would also ‘dominate frontages’ on Pinstone Street, they fear.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Howard Greaves, a group member, said: “The plan of extending Fargate will cut through a swathe of buildings on Cambridge Street.
“All this is on the premise that John Lewis will go to a new store, which has not yet been agreed. If John Lewis say ‘no’, they will have to go back to the drawing board.
“If they are going to knock it all down and end up with a load of bland buildings it is just going to be like any other city.
“People go to York and Leeds, which have lots of shops and historic buildings that they have managed to restore.
“Sheffield seems to be incapable of thinking like this, they think ‘let’s rip it down and start again’.”
Council deputy leader Coun Leigh Bramall said: “Since we launched our consultation in May we have heard a wide range of views from many different groups. The overriding response has been positive.
“When the council took the bold decision to drive this scheme forward, we were under no illusion that it would stir up a wide range of local opinions.
“While we are intent on transforming our city centre, creating jobs and increasing spending, we have been very clear this will not come at the expense of important issues like heritage.
“The planning process is designed to consider all views and allow the scheme to evolve accordingly. This is a complex process and we’re not in a position to pre-judge when it will be completed.”
He also said the council appreciated that people would not feel confident about progress until bulldozers were on site but most work had been ‘behind the scenes’.
“We have started preparing the former Grosvenor Hotel for demolition and highways enabling works and utilities diversion works will start in 2016,” he added.
Mr Greaves also warned work to extend Fargate would cause ‘chaos worse than when we got Supertram’.
He said the council should look at Sheffield Retail Development Group’s alternative retail quarter plan.
Their vision includes shops, offices, restaurants and bars, a 3,000 space underground car park and a Sheffield arts and convention centre.
In June it was confirmed the council was in talks with John Lewis over proposals to knock down the store and move it.
Coun Bramall said agreeing the financial terms of a lease is ‘something the development partner would engage with, when they are appointed’.
He added: “We continue to work closely with John Lewis, along with all the other major stakeholders involved in the project.”