Rails House Farm: Outrage at plan to demolish 18th century Sheffield farmhouse due to 'persistent damp'

A Sheffield couple have sparked outrage with plans to demolish an 18th century farm and replace it with a ‘suburban executive-style’ house.
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Lauren Thorpe and Ryan Lawson want to knock down Rails House Farm on Rails Road in the Green Belt in Rivelin Valley. Their plannning application states they initially wanted to extend - but a winter in the property led them to decide it had to go.

“Poorly conceived and constructed later additions, poor insulation and a persistent damp problem have driven the need for a replacement house that stands the test of time,” the application states.

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Their agent, Crowley Associates, adds that they also wanted something bigger, saying: “Ultimately, they decided the existing buildings could not meet the brief either in spatial or energy performance terms.”

The couple’s application also says: “The Rivelin Valley is stunning, and I have lived here all my life and as such we want to create something beautiful. We want a home that sits comfortably in the position of the existing house and provides a standalone piece of architecture that adds to the character of the valley. A stone-built house in line with modern standards of living, making use of eco-friendly technologies and modern insulation to provide our forever home.”

The proposal has sparked 49 objections from residents with some saying they are appalled at the ’needless destruction’.

One wrote: “I strongly object to the proposals. There seems to be no compelling reason to demolish a viable building and replace it with something that is out of character for the area. It's an unjustified harm to viable heritage of the area, will damage the special character of the landscape, and harm the Green Belt.”

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Hallamshire Historic Buildings has filed a detailed critique.

It states: “According to a recent planning application the whole thing has to come down, to be replaced by a larger building in a totally different style, with a massive south-facing frontage boasting plenty of glass. Gone will be the ancient farmhouse, the barn with its distinctive carriage arch, the open aspect and continuity with the surrounding countryside, replaced by a suburban executive-style dwelling.

“It's clear from the objections already received how Sheffielders cherish this landscape. As one commenter puts it ‘This valley is living Sheffield History: every stone, every shed, every farm, every out-building, every field pattern, every gate post and water trough. Those of us who live here love it and realise that our neighbours love it also: so, we do not destroy what cannot be replaced’.

“Another calls it an ‘act of vandalism that future generations will find hard to understand, let alone forgive’, calling on citizens to stand up and protest at the needless destruction of heritage. Some point out that it is the unspoiled, historic appearance of the landscape and its buildings that makes the valley such a popular and health-giving destination for people from all over the city.

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“It’s also a great attraction for visitors to the city, so it’s a boost for the economy too. Others question the impact on the environment. With up to half a building’s lifetime carbon emissions created during construction, demolition and rebuild should be a last resort – especially when the building has not long been renovated.”