The planning board rejected 77 apartments on the Nursery Street site, saying the design was “plain” and “unattractive” and wouldn’t fit in with the heritage of the River Don and Wicker.
Permission was granted several weeks ago allowing the demolition of the building as it is not listed nor in a conservation area.
Planning chairman Coun Peter Rippon repeatedly warned councillors they could not overturn the demolition and could only consider the new apartment plans in front of them.
Nick Roscoe of Hallamshire Historic Buildings made an 11th hour plea to save the Old Coroner’s Court. He said officers had rejected eight different schemes which incorporated the building and could have avoided demolition.
He told the committee: “This scheme involves the loss of a very attractive historic building. Developers were quite willing to try to preserve it. I am making a plea to take this matter in hand.
“We have a developer who is willing to talk and could have demolished in July but has not and seems to be waiting in case a compromise can be reached.
“There is still an opportunity to resolve this. History will not look kindly on this decision and this is a last minute plea.”
William Marshall, on behalf of developers Firestone, said if the plans were refused, they would appeal and it was very likely they would win.
He said: “Demolition has been approved and forms no part of this. The building could be demolished tomorrow with no consequences. All avenues have been assessed and the only solution is the proposal before you today.”
Several councillors said they would like to see the frontage of the building incorporated into the new apartments, although officers said this wasn’t viable.
Coun Chris Rosling-Josephs said: “This is plain and unattractive and is not bringing anything to the area.”
Coun Peter Price added: “It’s not often I support Hallamshire Historic Buildings but on this occasion I do. I know the current building is attractive and we are talking about the heritage of this city and the River Don and Wicker.
“Not enough effort has been made. Modifications could involve the frontage of the Old Coroner’s Court and still be an attractive building.
“We have done a lot in this area but this corner is still part of that 100 year old history and we should make a serious effort to maintain that.”
Coun Dianne Hirst said: “I have real concerns about the design, this doesn’t bring much to the party. People will see a monolith.”
The Old Coroner’s Court dates back to 1913 and was designed by city architect FEP Edwards as a state-of the art coroners court, mortuary, post mortem rooms, viewing chapel and witnesses’ waiting room.