Planners must be forward looking

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The University of Sheffield Faculty of engineering is undertaking a development programme which includes the construction of an £80 million engineering facility on the Jessop hospital site.

I visited the information session by the University’s Dept of Estates and Facilities at the Quaker meeting house in May.

What I saw was probably the most exciting proposal, not only for the future development of the University, but for the city of Sheffield, that I have witnessed in my 32 years as a resident of this city. The ambition, scale and vision proposed by the Faculty of Engineering and the Dept of Estates and Facilities was breathtaking.

I spoke at length with an academic member of the Engineering faculty, Ian Moulson, deputy director of operations, who eloquently and with great clarity explained the vision for the this new development.

This development is part of a £154 million development plan that the university is embarking on to upgrade and modernise the whole of the Faculty of Engineering. I also understand this significant investment is being funded entirely by the university and will have a significant impact on the regeneration of Sheffield.

There has been widespread support from across the political spectrum within the city.

From a personal perspective I am very concerned about the attitude of the Sheffield City Council planning department towards the development.

Whilst I have no direct experience of dealing with this department I have had friends and colleagues’ who have, and the general consensus is that when confronted with plans of this scale they repeatedly fail to grasp the vision that is being put forward.

This was graphically illustrated a few years ago when a proposed redevelopment in the north of the city worth many hundreds of millions was rejected, a decision which was severely criticised at the time by the local MP Mr David Blunkett.

I am concerned that the failure of the local planning department to grasp the vision and future benefits to the city of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will create serious delays in this major development.

If the fundamental objection from the planning department is the demolition of an Edwardian annexe to the much loved and beautifully restored Victorian Jessop hospital, undertaken at great expense by the university, I would suggest the following should be taken into account.

The industrial heritage of this great city is recognised throughout the world.

The vital element then as is now was the ability to develop world class engineering products. To enable this to happen there was and is now the critical need to develop world-class engineers.

To do this today and in the future the university must be able to compete with other Faculties of Engineering across the world to attract the best candidates.

To enable the university to do this requires world class engineering facilities. This is exactly what is at the heart of this proposal.

If we are to sacrifice this whole vision on the altar of some misguided feelings for an outdated and unused building then this would be an absolute travesty of the first degree.

The planning department would be guilty of trying to drive the vehicle of vision by looking in the rear view mirror and wing mirrors only and not looking forward.

David Smith, Wood lane Close, Sheffield S6