Councillors to debate sale of 18th century Sheffield mansion 'to ensure processes followed'
A Sheffield Council decision to sell an 18th century mansion to a care home operator will be reviewed after a councillor said he wanted to ensure that the process has been 'transparent'.
Councillors announced the grade-II* listed Mount Pleasant building in Sharrow will be sold to care firm Hermes who will invest Â£6.7 million to convert the building into a 30-bed care home a fortnight ago.
The decision meant that entrepreneurs Pennie Raven and Jonny Douglas, who are current 'guardians' of the site, missed out on the chance to carry out a Â£17 million transformation of the site into around 200 flats, shops, office and community skills club.
And Nether Edge and Sharrow councillor Jim Steinke has now submitted a 'call-in' notice for the council's economic and environmental wellbeing scrutiny committee to look at the decision and debate it at a meeting on March 14.
Coun Steinke said: "I don't have a preferred option - I think both are good options but what I wanting is to be absolutely certain of the processes taken because the building is of such significance.
"I want to make sure that the process has been as transparent and open as possible and officers and members will be scrutinised publicly at the meeting."
Hermes' proposals will see the main building, on Sharrow Lane, transformed into a 30-bed care home and the stables will be converted it into a smaller, specialist facility with around eight bedrooms.
The current hub building - the former school - will be converted into ten properties which will be aimed at older people and key workers on the site. A further optional phase includes the possible addition of flats on the site.
Mr Douglas and Ms Raven had drawn up the Heart of Sharrow project, which would have seen social enterprise Avenues to Zero take on the site on a 250-year lease, with works fully funded by socially-minded investors.
Coun Steinke added: "I just want the best bid to go forward but I want to make sure the process has been rigorous and proper.
"The Scrutiny Committee will provide a transparent review on the costing and process by which the decision was reached. I have 'called in' this matter to scrutiny as I want to ensure that there is the upmost confidence in the decision taken."
Nadim Admani, co-director of Hermes. said the care home plans, which would be subject to planning permission, would create up to 80 jobs.
Speaking when the decision was announced, he said: "Our vision is not too dissimilar to others that were interested in developing the site. It's to create a community space but I suppose the difference is our focus is on the elderly.
"We want to develop the building but we want to try and keep as many features as possible and sympathetically renovate it so that when people go past they say: 'Wow'."
In a statement Mr Douglas and Ms Raven said they welcomed the decision being called in.
It said: "The officers who have communicated the information in the two bids to cabinet maintain that they are confident in the process and their decision. Our concern is that the call-in will merely verify policy, process and procedure.
"The people of Sharrow, local -residents, -projects, -businesses and the surrounding neighbourhoods, who we’ve been working with for the last four years, have overwhelmingly made it absolutely clear what they want to happen with the site and deserve complete transparency on how and why the decision to dispose of this unique and vitally important place is going against their wishes.
"We are not sure if important aspects of our scheme have been overlooked or just not understood, but throughout this process there has been a consistent lack of communication, absolutely zero willingness to liaise with us, and every step of the way has been an uphill struggle to get to this point.
"We hope that as part of this process, the scrutiny committee will be allowed to take the time to fully appreciate the importance of our community led vision and it’s potential for our model to help the council build a resilient, self-sustaining communities.
"All over the world organisations are seeking to address the problems we are tackling and there is a unique opportunity in saving Mount Pleasant and creating the Heart of Sharrow to be at the forefront of this.
"We completely understand the need for care for our ageing population, which is why there is provision for this in our scheme…as well as ensuring the continuation of Ship Shapes vital services for the area from the site, among so many other benefits.
We invite Sheffield Council, councillors of all parties and our anchor institutions to look properly at what we’re doing and the far reaching impact it can have for literally thousands of people for generations to come."