First image of controversial Sheffield scheme

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This is the first look at how a highly controversial development in Sheffield could look if it is agreed by planners tomorrow.

The proposal to demolish independent shops on Devonshire Street in the city centre and replace them with apartments, a restaurant and a retail unit has attracted 20,000 objections.

Well-known Sheffield celebrities such as Arctic Monkeys’ drummer Matt Helders, politicians and conservation groups also want to save the shops.

Protests are expected outside Sheffield Town Hall tomorrow afternoon and campaigners will urge councillors at the planning meeting to reject the recommendation of council officers.

Coda Planning, architects and agents for the developer, has released the images before the decision.

Director Adam Murray said: “ We want to show that the future look of the Devonshire Street facade will be the same as what currently exists – we are going to use the same brick, the same top and sills and basically retain the character of how the building currently sits.”

But objectors are less concerned with how any new building could look and more with the fact that it could force out the independent traders and make the street look like ‘any other high street’.

Mr Murray admitted the images did not address the concern.

But he said the planning process was not in place to protect businesses and independent firms could well remain there if the development does go ahead.

Mr Murray added: “There isn’t an indication of what will be there yet.

“It is very easy to think this but it’s not one of those where we want to demolish it so it can be sold on to Starbucks, Greggs and Tesco – not at all.

“We are Sheffield people, what we would like to see is independent shops going back in there.”

One online petition against the plans, which has more than 18,000 objections, is the largest ever of its kind recorded by the city council. Another petition has almost 2,000 names

The shops sit in a block which survived air raids during World War II.

Protesters are expected to argue for a ‘common sense’ judgement given public opposition and that they are heritage assets which should be protected under planning policy.

Council officers argue the plan ‘largely complies’ with some of its policies and its designation as an area of special character was made almost 20 years ago.