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Howard Greaves

Chairman Hallamshire Historic Buildings

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read Councillor Mazher Iqbal’s fatuous justification for demolishing the historic Athol Hotel. (Star feature December 17).

It was generous of him to invite a Star reporter to the site, but a shame that he didn’t bother to ask a conservationist to be present for the biased presentation. The fact that upstairs was once home to grotty student bedsits is irrelevant as stud walls are easily removable. As to the derelict Chinese restaurant, no one is likely to be buying their chow mein there anyway.

Refurbishment is much greener but it seems to be a word which is not in the Councillor’s vocabulary and he surely must be aware of the various refurbishment schemes which are taking place in the nearby Cathedral Quarter where period offices are being converted into period apartments. This has now spread to Paradise Square which looks set to return to residential, and not before time. Period apartments are at a premium and tend to fetch more than little boxes and sell quicker. The vast upper floors of the Athol would convert admirably to such apartments and would be in a prime position. Some original features must still be left in the building and those that are missing can be easily reinstated, so why destroy this important piece of history. I can remember when Cornish Place at Kelham Island was a burned out shell, so anything is possible.

The long Victorian stretch of Pinstone Street from Barker’s Pool to the Pepperpot at the bottom of Cambridge Street is 100% intact and as such very rare in our city, miraculously surviving the Blitz. Removing the Athol would be akin to removing a tooth from a perfect set of gnashers, so why do it?

No attempt has been made to investigate the 1920’s cladding to see what lies beneath and no-one has acknowledged the important sporting links involving football, cricket and boxing. A building’s history is just as important as its architectural merit and this one certainly deserves a blue plaque.

Councillor Iqbal should not have given himself a pat on the head for preserving Leah’s Yard and The Citadel as neither of these have ever been under serious threat due to their importance and Grade II* and Grade II Listed statuses. He is being disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

He uses the word ‘hinder’ when referring to the Athol. This comes straight out of a typical greedy developer’s dictionary when referring to a tiresome old building which will get in the way of wringing more vast profits out of a site. Of course saving the Athol will dent these profits but money isn’t everything and I would suggest the Councillor and his colleagues bear this in mind when nodding through the various monstrous schemes which are happening all over Sheffield. As far as they are concerned the denser, sprawlier, and taller the better as this means lots more juicy rates for the council coffers.

But at what cost to the streetscape and landscape, historic or otherwise?

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