WORK has started on controversial plans to transform a derelict Sheffield church after developers were delayed by strict planning conditions.
The developers came under fire from residents after being given planning permission to convert the former Crookes Valley Methodist Church into flats last April.
Campaigners voiced fears the proposals threatened the character of the building, which had fallen into a state of disrepair and had been invaded by squatters and used for illegal raves following its closure in 2002. Objectors also warned a potential influx of students, which the flats are aimed at, would impact on other residents.
Developers iFor Homes, based in Leeds, are now urging the community to get behind the revamp as work begins on phase one of the £4m project – 32 bed spaces ready for the start of term in September.
Architects have been forced to go back to the drawing board on a number of occasions to ensure designs stick to the 106 planning conditions imposed on the Grade II-listed Victorian building, including preservation of a large stained glass window.
David Hancock, operations manager for iFor Homes, said: “The bed spaces are quite high-end and luxurious. The accommodation is close to the university but it isn’t just for students. It could be for young professionals too. We never specify them. These aren’t egg boxes, they’re all really large double rooms which are breaking away from the stereotype of traditional student housing.
“There have been so many conditions but keeping the character of the church was something we wanted to do anyway.
“I didn’t understand some of the objections. I could understand if we were wanting to rip it all out or knock it down but we’re investing millions of pounds.
The second phase of the project, which will see a total of 102 bed spaces – a mixture of three to seven-bed cluster apartments – available to rent is due for completion by next July.
Architect Ann Daw, a resident of Crookesmoor who objected to the plans, said: “I am very glad something is being done to the building but the problem with the way it is being made means it is something that will not easily be undone if 40 years down the line they want to do something different with it.”