Julie Bradbury: Legal challenge is a victory for people power

Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall over the Devonshire Street plans
Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall over the Devonshire Street plans
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Confirmation of a legal challenge to plans to demolition 162 to 170 Devonshire Street in Sheffield is some of the best news I’ve heard in ages.

It’s a victory for the 22,000 people that have signed the petition and the thousands that have pledged their financial support to raise the £15,000 required to make it happen.

The voice of opposition to the highly controversial plans has been unrelenting these past few months and so it should have been.

I found the mere thought of anyone wanting to demolish these beautiful buildings quite shocking. They are a major part of the fabric of this city and hold a special place in the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of people.

Architects argued their corner by saying the buildings were “falling into a state of disrepair”.

That’s a fair point but if that was used as an argument there’d be no historic buildings left at all. York would have been razed to the ground, closely followed by historic areas London.

I know in my own work as an interior designer that people can quickly develop an emotional attachment to a room and its design and the same goes for the bricks and mortar.

People have grown up with these Devonshire Street buildings and the different businesses that have made them their home.Rare & Racy has been a cornerstone of the city’s cultural sector for nearly 50 years and the business is an icon. The rickety floors, steep stairs and nooks and crannies are as much a part of the allure as the things they sell.

And who remembers the Rickshaw Chinese that used to occupy the far end of the row? Another institution that later became Mr Kites and these days the Green Room.

I blend historical and modern everyday in my work as an interior designer. Historical artefacts and buildings provide depth and colour that you could never get otherwise.

The Devonshire Street buildings are some of the few that remain of the vibrant community that used to occupy Devonshire Green. This community was all but wiped out on the first night of the Sheffield Blitz. These buildings provide a unique window on an otherwise lost world.

The Devonshire Street area is the hub of Sheffield’s independent retail trade and a tourist attraction in its own right. The demolition would be a major body blow to it.

This December marks 75 years since great swathes of the city centre was lost to the fires of the Blitz. Some of our oldest and best loved buildings were lost in 9 hours of bombings and over 300 plans.

The city took decades to rebuild and it’s only now, with the redevelopment of the Moor, people are realising how drab much of the rebuild in the 1960s actually was.

Let’s hope the Sheffield Blitz 75th anniversary is marked by these Devonshire Street buildings surviving the whims of 21st century developers.