Independent shops on a site which survived air raids in Sheffield are set to be knocked down – despite almost 20,000 objections.
Proposals to demolish specialist shops on Devonshire Street in the city centre and replace them with flats and shops sparked the largest public outcry ever seen by Sheffield Council planners.
Objectors say the impact on the area means the street will become ‘like every single high street in the country’ and it would be ‘utter madness to demolish one of the truly individual parts of Sheffield’.
Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and stars of TV series This Is England have also voiced their support for the ‘vibrant’ shops, including the Rare and Racy second hand book store.
But Coda Planning, agent for developers Primesite Ltd, insists the development would ‘rejuvenate’ a block falling into ‘disrepair’ and improve the area.
Sheffield Council today confirmed an online petition with 18,337 signatures, set up by Sheffield poet Jonathan Butcher, was the largest connected to a planning application since the authority began keeping petition logs.
But planners say the law means only views based on ‘material planning considerations’ can be given weight.
They have recommended the proposals are approved so the buildings – which date back to 1853 and survived air raid attacks on Sheffield during World War II, although others nearby were destroyed – can be replaced.
A report to the planning committee next Tuesday says the buildings are undesignated heritage assets of local importance but alterations have had an impact on their ‘significance’.
“The weight that can be given to their conservation is considered to be limited,” it adds.
The report says: “Though occupiers of the existing retail units perfectly reflect the city’s aspirations for the Devonshire Quarter and undeniably have a part to play in creating an attractive, viable and varied city centre, the planning system does not exist to protect the private interests of one person against the activities of another.
“Provided a retail frontage is retained, the loss of the specific businesses is not a planning matter.”
The report also says the ‘relatively positive impact’ of plans on the area and ‘general compliance’ with planning policies should be weighed up. Plans have been amended to offer homes for a variety of people and a retail unit as well as a restaurant.
Coda planning director Adam Murray said the building’s design would respect the street’s character.
“The future appearance of the new building will be almost identical to the current structure and allow occupancy to continue,” he added.