New bid to demolish Sheffield’s Old Coroner’s Court, as developer claims it has exhausted options to save ‘special’ building note-0

A new application has been made to demolish Sheffield's Old Coroner’s Court, after the previous one was withdrawn in the face of a public backlash.

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 10:36 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th March 2019, 16:07 pm

Firestone Developments said it had gone back to the drawing board following objections from heritage campaigners but none of the numerous options it came up with to preserve the building got the backing of Sheffield Council’s planning team.

The developer plans to raze the 1913 building on Nursery Street, beside the River Don, close to the Wicker, and replace it with a five-story structure with commercial premises on the ground floor and flats above.

It claims its plans would add vibrancy’ to the area, which is not far from trendy Kelham Island and lies on the outskirts of the Castlegate district where a hoped-for renaissance is in the early stages, acting as a spur for further regeneration.

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The demolition notice application, which has yet to appear on the council’s online planning portal, states that the developer wants to begin destruction on July 1 and it should be completed by September 23.

Firestone Developments said in a statement: “We are committed to developing a high-quality residential and commercial scheme on Nursery Street in the Wicker area.

“We believe our proposed development will add vibrancy and provide the stimulus for further regeneration of the surrounding area.

“We have spent the past year working up schemes for the site that would retain the Old Coroner’s Court building whilst remaining viable for us to deliver commercially.

“We have worked up eight different variations of schemes over that time, the majority of which would have retained the Old Coroner’s Court

building or its facade, with those deemed most appropriate being considered further by the local planning authority.

“We believe that these schemes would have worked in planning terms but unfortunately we have been unable to secure final support from the authority.

“As a consequence, we now see demolition as the only option open to us in order to deliver a commercially viable scheme and the regeneration we believe will benefit the area and the city.”

It is understood the alternative plans put forward, which the developer said would make it viable to keep the building, were deemed too tall by planners.

Councillor Jack Scott, the council's cabinet member for development, had said when the previous demolition notice was withdrawn last August that the council would continue to work with Firestone to ‘discuss a better scheme that is more in keeping with our values as a city’.

He described it at the time as a ‘special building’ and said it was right the council examined any proposal for its demolition ‘very carefully'.

The Old Coroner's Court was later used as a business centre but is currently vacant.

The new application comes just weeks after the council postponed a long-awaited consultation on proposals to create a new Castlegate conservation area, which it is understood would have incorporated Nursery Street.

Douglas Johnson, Green Party councillor for Sheffield’s City ward, who opposed the original demolition notice, said he was ‘obviously disappointed’ a fresh one had been submitted.

“It’s about getting something that's workable but also sympathetic on this site. If the developer is saying the planning team has put a veto on any of its plans to keep the Old Coroner’s Court, I’m not sure how that can be tested if Firestone is not open about what those plans were,” he added.

He also expressed his disappointment that since the initial demolition notice was withdrawn there had been a fire at the building, which was previously intact, and lead had been stolen from the roof.

Valerie Bayliss, of the campaign group Joined Up Heritage, said: "I have to make the link with the council's failure to progress its public consultation on setting up a conservation area in Castlegate, which was intended to include the Old Coroner's Court.

“We know have the prospect of two big developments, including the tower block planned at the old Primark site.

“The council’s argument for the delay was that it wanted to take account of new developments, including the sale of the Old Town Hall.

“But that’s irrelevant. If an area’s worthy of being a conservation area, then it’s worthy of being a conservation area.

“If you postpone the decision until you've got things you want to allow to be built, then what’s the point of having a conservation area?”

The Star has contacted Sheffield Council and is awaiting a response.