‘One and a half cheers for new Citadel plans'
This letter sent to the Star was written by J Robin Hughes, On behalf of Hallamshire Historic Buildings, (S35)
One and a half cheers for the revised plans for the Citadel. Any proposal that brings this fine but shamefully neglected building back into use is to be welcomed, so long as it actually comes to fruition.
Perhaps this latest scheme is a sign that the Council's decision to allow the historic street pattern and a little more of the built heritage to survive has made the area a better bet to become an attractive destination to enjoy and spend time in, rather than simply to go shopping. Using it as a restaurant will give customers more chance to linger and to appreciate the surviving internal features and external historic environment.
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So why the muted celebration? Customers won't actually get to see very much of anything. The plans are unchanged since previous applications, which were for a building hemmed in by the now-abandoned New Retail Quarter. A blank two-storey wall will face Burgess Street, resulting in very little internal daylight. To overcome this, windows in the fortress-like façade will be enlarged and the amount of glazing increased, changing its character significantly. Now that Burgess Street will remain open, it would be very much to everyone's advantage to add windows to that side, providing views of Cross Burgess Street and the courtyard behind Laycock House, both of which will soon be much improved by Heart of the City II. Burgess Street would benefit from an active frontage. The visibility of activity within the building from outside would be attractive to passers-by, increasing custom. Best of all, customers would benefit from more daylight, especially in the evenings, making the harmful changes to the façade unnecessary.
Another cause for caution is that permission has been granted to convert this building nine times in the last 19 years, variously as shops or a restaurant. The Salvation Army built the Citadel as a venue for worship as theatre, cannily supporting it with the commercial development of Pinstone Chambers next door (their initials are still visible there, carved into the stonework). Under the current proposals, seating tiers and galleries will unfortunately be lost, along with much of its theatrical character. Perhaps it will be tenth time lucky. Or maybe the stuttering progress in finding a new role for this building is an indication that its best use would be its original purpose: as a performance space.