'Secret garden' plan thrown out

PLANS to build on a Victorian 'secret garden' in Sheffield have dramatically been thrown out by councillors.

After a marathon three-and-a-half hour debate, councillors turned down a plan to build more than 120 homes on land currently occupied by University of Sheffield's Tapton Halls of Residence.

The scheme would have also have meant building houses on a hitherto unknown walled garden dating from the middle of the 19th Century - in the face of fierce resistance by local residents.

It had been expected the plan to build 69 flats and 48 houses on the land bordered by Crookes Road and Taptonville Road would be approved, following last-minute discussions on the amount of subsidised housing to be included. Instead the issue proved its downfall.

Planning officers said the developers had submitted an “artificially low“ valuation of the average cost of a property - meaning they would have to pay less cash towards affordable housing.

Jim Lomas, the agent representing the developers, protested that throwing out the plan after two and half years of negotiation would be “a travesty.“

But councillors turned a deaf ear, rejecting the scheme on the grounds of the issue of affordable housing, and also because they felt it was “an overdevelopment“, would mean the loss of lime trees, and because the Victorian garden would be lost.

Planning officer Chris Heeley told Sheffield Council’s City Centre, South and East Planning and Highways Area Board that the Victorian Garden contained “nothing sufficient to merit its retention. It couldn't justifiably be protected“.

But Mark Pickering, secretary of the Broomhill Neighbourhood Action Group (BANG), said: “The proposals for the experimental gardens would destroy one of only three walled gardens in Sheffield - this one dating back some 150 years - as well as a line of trees that are marked on a map dated 1893 and have for many years been a feature of this street.“

Coun John Hesketh added the garden was “a parcel of rural life“ in a city suburb, which was “historic and important“.

A Sheffield University spokeswoman refused to comment after the decision, but Lee Kenny, of BANG, said they were “absolutely delighted“ with the councillors’ decision.

An appeal from developers now seems almost inevitable.