Move to demolish Sheffield's Hallam Tower welcomed by community
Long-awaited work to demolish the iconic Hallam Tower and replace it with a plush new housing scheme have finally begun.
And nobody is more pleased about the move than the man who used to manage the landmark hotel.
The building, which in its heyday hosted a galaxy of stars when visiting the city, has fallen into a state of disrepair since closing its doors more than a decade ago. And its recent reputation as a blot on the landscape took a tragic turn earlier this year when a student fell to his death, prompting urgent calls for the site to be flattened. But demolition work has finally started after years of delays to make way for a new residential development.
Nobody knows more about the site's changing fortunes than Jim Stephenson, who used to manage the hotel in the early 1990s and now lives close to the complex on Manchester Road.
The 69-year-old joined community leaders, councillors and an MP in expressing his delight at seeing the bulldozers move in.
The work has given fresh hope that the site will re-emerge and enhance Fulwood and Broomhill's already established reputation as a great place to live and visit.
Mr Stephenson said: "It is about time that they did something with the site, it has been stood for far too long. I think the new housing will make the area even more attractive."
He did however say that seeing the old building go is tinged with some sadness.
"I worked there when the World Student Games were on in 1991 and it was fantastic. It was more of a family atmosphere, a great place to work.
"But things move on. I think it's important now that once it is demolished they crack on with the new build."
Others in the community agreed it is key that the site is not left empty for years on end.
Jared O' Mara, Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: "I would strongly encourage that they commence construction work of the new residential site immediately so the site is not left empty and unattended.”
Fulwood's Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Sangar MBE said: “The shell of the tower has been an eyesore blighting the local landscape for far too long.
"Following the completion of the demolition, I look forward to the construction of high quality housing.
“I hope that this construction can take place sooner rather than later.”
Fellow Lib Dem councillor Cliff Woodcraft described the site as a “hazard for trespassers” and said a “good quality residential development would be an asset to the area.”
In it's day the hotel enjoyed a reputation as the place to be for visiting celebrities during the 1970s and hosted football star Pele, plus music icons Elton John and David Bowie.
Since closing its doors in 2004 it became a magnet for so called 'urban explorers' who climb high derelict buildings to explore the decaying interior.
Earlier this year 19-year-old student Thomas Rhodes plunged to his death from the building.
Plans to partially demolish the tower block and convert it into housing were approved in 2009 but no work ever commenced.
However, those plans approved nearly a decade ago have been dusted off by AXIS Architecture, which submitted a new application earlier this year to demolish most of the existing tower, leaving only the bottom two levels intact, and to create taller storeys.
The revised scheme would still see the tower rebuilt and extended slightly, with two new four-storey blocks added to create 122 apartments and 11 three-storey townhouses.
Resident Michael Twigg, aged 73, who lives in nearby Fulwood Park Mansions, said it was a relief to see the demolition work start last week as residents had become concerned there could be another death.
He said: "It was awful what happened to the young lad. We used to see people at the top of the building all the time, sitting with their legs over the edge.
"There was concern that it could happen again. It will be much safer when its gone."
Ann Le Sage, chair of the Friends of the Porter Valley group, said: “Speaking personally and not as part of the group on this issue I think its ridiculous to leave a building like that empty for more than 10 years. I hope they just get on with it (the redevelopment).”
Aside from the Hallam Tower issue, another project that Fulwood residents have taken to their hearts is moving along nicely.
The FOPV launched a £360, 000 fundraising appeal four years ago to improve the Forge Dam area and they are well on their way to reaching the target having raised £120, 000 so far.
Records show there has been a dam at the site for more than 200 years but the nearby pond area has become deluged with tonnes of silt.
The group hopes to use the money to clear out the silt in the hope of creating a better habitat for wildlife and making it a nicer place to visit.
Ann added: “The area is a well visited area already, but if we can get the silt removed it will be even better.
“We are currently working on a planning application to put in a wall that would divert the silt coming from the brook. Then later on we will look at applying for grants to remove all the standing silt.
“This would preserve it for generations to come.”
A spokesperson for Blenheim Park Estates said the company is acting as the estate agent for the Hallam Tower site and the vendor is Ms Ann El-Taher.
They added demolition started as rare specialist machinery needed for the work became available in recent weeks but didn't comment on when building work would commence.
A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said there is no date set yet for the latest planning application to be discussed.
We contacted Ann El-Taher for comment but she did not get back to us.