Cole Brothers: 'It's an eyesore' - criticism of calls to list former John Lewis store in Sheffield

Star readers have criticised calls to list the former Cole Brothers store in Sheffield – describing it as an ‘eyesore’ of no architectural merit.

Monday, 23rd May 2022, 10:52 am

Dozens took to Facebook to comment on a proposal by architects and historians to protect the Barker’s Pool building, last used by John Lewis, who believe it should be preserved because it is ‘historically and architecturally’ important and re-using it could be quicker, less disruptive and greener than ‘unsustainable demolition’.

But readers had a very different view, with some recalling the shock of Park Hill flats being listed.

Darren Kynoch said: “It was the partners that made that building what it is or was. Without them it’s just a eyesore now, full of asbestos, pull it down. Worked there for 24 years and my wife who I met there 34 years. John Lewis Sheffield was one beautiful family. Miss you all.”

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There are calls for the former Cole Brothers building, last occupied by John Lewis, to be listed to preserve it for further use in Sheffield city centre

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Dave Wilson: “List a building that takes up a huge area of the city centre and is unsuitable for almost anything due to the lack of windows etc. Great idea!”

Angela Greenwood: “This will just delay things for years and it will just sit there as an eyesore for all. It’s of no historic or architectural merit at all. The old Kingdom nightclub 80s red steel and mirrors was the one to save round there.”

Diane Smith: “It’s been stated the building will cost a fortune to bring back to safety standards. It’s not an historic building it’s not a beautiful building. It has no ideal use in today’s society. It needs replacing by something that serves everyone.”

Henry Nottage: “We need new build and renovation to be taxed the same way so it becomes more economically viable to save a building IMO.”

Debra Chadwick: “No, no - it isn’t even the original Cole Bros store and has no historical significance.”

James Smith: “Sheffield has already been burdened with Park Hill being given listed status, don’t need another eyesore listing.”

Gill Richardson: “What for it to end up like the old Salvation Army building on Cross Burgess Street off Pinstone Street with weeds growing out of the brick work that want sorting or demolishing.”

Rachel Louise: “What historical significance does this Brutalist 1960s nightmare have exactly? Just asking for another monstrosity we can't legally get rid of like Park Hill flats.”

Dean Palmer: “Worked there for 15 years and I have great memories but I don't agree with making it a listed building...its an old crumbling wreck and would cost a fortune to make it safe and usable, whatever that use may be.”

Fay Williams Howard: “Having worked there for 30 years, I know just how bad that building is. It leaks like a sieve and has done all the time I worked there. Nothing and nobody could stop it. It`s also full of asbestos. It needs knocking down not listing.”

John Lewis moved out with the loss of 299 jobs last June.

Sheffield Council commissioned a survey which found a ‘clear preference’ for demolition among the 1,500 who responded - although figures were not disclosed.

The majority wanted to replace it with something smaller, the authority said.

Groups calling for listing include Hallamshire Historic Buildings, Joined Up Heritage Sheffield, Twentieth Century Society and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

An open letter signed by the groups reads: “The former Cole Brothers/John Lewis store is historically and architecturally important.

“Coles is one of the best of Sheffield’s unique collection of department stores built in the aftermath of the Blitz, when the great architectural critic Nikolaus Pevsner said that “hardly another city of similar size has been as enterprising and enlightened”.

“Above all it embodies the memories and experiences of thousands of Sheffielders who shopped or sheltered there, a backdrop to generations of celebration and commemoration, built to respect in scale and proportion the War Memorial and City Hall.”

It continues: “Sheffield should be proud to have such a building. We might cautiously welcome the council’s invitation of expressions of interest in re-using it; but demolition is very much still on the table, as they seek a Certificate of Immunity from Listing, both acknowledging its historic potential and protecting their right to destroy it.”

The letter states: “No-one denies that Coles can be re-used. Our city’s response to retail sector upheaval should be a national flagship for department store re-use. This can be quick, climate-centric, less disruptive, and if necessary incremental, beating unsustainable demolition hands down.

“To compete and prosper Sheffield must have a strategy that recognises and celebrates its physical heritage, prioritising re-use to mitigate the reality of climate change. A strategy for heritage is also a strategy for the economy, the environment and the community. Heritage is woven into the very fabric of these: they cannot be separated.

“Listed buildings are occupied disproportionately by the most productive, creative and independent businesses: note the successful Castle House department store, housing Kommune foodhall, National Videogames Museum, Kollider workspaces and Wandisco’s UK HQ. They are vital to identity and belonging, health and wellbeing.

“We believe that Coles merits listing by Historic England for its history and architecture alone; but we also support listing as the most effective way to preserve these benefits. What we have is the foundation of what we can become.”

The council says a final decision on the future of the building is due by the end of summer. The announcement of a public preference for ’flatten and replace’ gave developers a steer on the approach that will be favoured.

But it will be more a year since the shop closed for good before a new future for the site is proposed.