“The Old Coroner's Court could be saved, and should be saved”

The Old Coroners Court on Nursery StreetThe Old Coroners Court on Nursery Street
The Old Coroners Court on Nursery Street
This letter sent to the Star was written by J Robin Hughes, Towngate Road, Worrall, Sheffield, S35

Towngate Road, Worrall, Sheffield, S35

It would be easy to cast George Johnston of Firestone Developments as the villain in the Old Coroner's Court saga.

This would be unfair: he doesn't want to demolish this historic building, as shown by its retention in the many economically viable schemes that he says he has put to the Council. His planning agent, Coda, have also said that they oppose demolition. Council officers long ago recognised it as a significant contributor to the area's historic character. Only last August, a cabinet member described it as a special building, going on to say that heritage should only be lost when there is overwhelming justification. A petition to protect it gathered hundreds of signatures within days.

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It seems we are all in violent agreement. The Old Coroner's Court could be saved, and should be saved. This would be the moment for a senior councillor committed to the critical economic and social role of heritage to show leadership, to step forward and work to bring about that happy outcome, if only there was such a person. Instead, the incoherent and whimsical attitude continues. The trickle of warm words has dried up. Julie Dore's advocacy of respect for history and heritage of just a few weeks ago is forgotten, as is the City Centre Masterplan in which she wrote so enthusiastically of how the best global cities use their heritage. The Council gives itself permission to demolish historic buildings, and abruptly cancels a long-awaited Conservation Area consultation. While apparently objecting to 12 storeys behind the Old Coroner's Court, they approve the same height a few yards away, and welcome much taller buildings at Moorhead and Castle Square adjacent to Conservation Areas, their policy on building height in tatters.

Amidst this chaos, the silence of councillors is deafening, but will probably continue. After all, before long it will be broken by the sound of wrecking balls. Not just in Nursery Street and Pinstone Street, but all over the city.

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