Campaigners who have fought to preserve one of Sheffield’s most historic buildings have responded to proposals to make it a drive-through Starbucks.
Plans were submitted earlier this month to convert Carbrook Hall, which has links to the Civil War and is said to be haunted, into a café and restaurant.
The building has stood vacant since it was sold early last year and closed as a pub, and in April it was damaged in an arson attack which heritage campaigners branded a ‘wake-up call’.
The owner West Street leisure claims the plans are the only commercially viable option for the building on Attercliffe Common, in Attercliffe, and would enable visitors to once again appreciate its historic features.
Now heritage campaigners have had their say on the proposals.
Local historian Ron Clayton said: “My view is that this is the last chance for this building and we have to get this right.
“I'm concerned that some of the heritage statements in the application are quite out of date. With an application of this importance, I would have expected them to be more up to date.
“What particularly concerns me is the interior decor. This building needs to have detailed reference to its history, including the role of former owner John Bright in the siege of Sheffield Castle, and we need more information about how they’re going to preserve its historic features.
“The outside looks nice in the pictures but we all know that artists' impressions don’t always reflect reality.”
Howard Greaves, of Hallamshire Historic Buildings, said: “A Starbucks seems totally out of character for this building but if they can get the decor right and furnish it properly I don’t have a problem.
“With that wonderful panelling in the Old Oak Room you don’t want bright plastic chairs ruining the appearance.
“Starbucks and Costa all seem to have the same banal corporate image and if they slap that all over the building it will be a great shame, but if they can tone it down a bit it could be OK.
“If it’s a matter of this or board it up and leave it to rot, I suppose we’ll have to swallow a Starbucks. It’s a shame because if you’d uprooted the pub and plonked it in the middle of Derbyshire people would come from miles around to see this building.
He added that he hoped the building doesn't go the same way as the old Pheasant Inn across the road, which he said had been ‘trashed’ and turned into a restaurant, only for the restaurant to close.
Ruth Morgan, of the Hunter Archaeological Society, said: “I don’t know much about Starbucks’ reputation for treating heritage sites, but some chains like Wetherspoons do have a good reputation for treating historic buildings with respect.
“It’s a very difficult site without many residents about, and any solution would be better than none. This isn’t what I would really want for this building but short of a group of friends coming together to save it this might be the only solution.”
Dave Pickersgill, of Sheffield and District CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), said: “We are pleased to note, that over 18 months after the Grade II*-listed Carbrook Hall was closed as a public house, a planning application has finally been submitted.
“We are also pleased to note that the old oak room is planned to become ‘a seating area with minimal refurbishment other than the removal of modern additions.’ Hence, we assume that no change to the historic interior of the building will occur.
“However, if this planning application is approved, including the change in use class, it will mean the removal of Carbrook Hall from any/all inventories of historic pub interiors.
“Hence, we are objecting to the application and propose instead a change to A4/A3 mixed use class, with the retention of a small bar and bar area for drinkers/non-diners. This would ensure continued inclusion on pub listings. It would also allow more flexibility for the managers of the building as it’s use continues to evolve.”