Sheffield heritage champion moves to halt demolition of former coffee house
and live on Freeview channel 276
Coun Janet Ridler was alerted to an application made to the council to demolish the former Mappins Coffee House on London Road, Highfield, by a firm that is seeking planning permission to replace the building with new shops and apartments.
Hallamshire Historic Buildings (HHS) and the Victorian Society have already lodged objections to those plans and Robin Hughes of HHS spotted that the developers had separately applied for a fast-track demolition order. That would have allowed the building to be knocked down in days, before councillors had even considered the planning application.
Coun Ridler has asked the council to urgently approve what’s called an article 4 direction that would block the developer’s bid to be granted an order that would potentially allow demolition from April 6.
She said: “They have already got a planning application in process, due to be heard sometime in the near future. The planning committee would take into account representations from them and any objections made over the planning portal.
“It was somewhat of a shock to discover that in parallel to this they’ve decided to put in this application that would expire on April 5. In theory on April 6 they could move in and knock that building down.
“It’s not what I would expect a developer to be doing and I do question that motive. It feels like an attempt to circumvent the planning process.
“A lot of people are quite rightly concerned about the proposal. I agree with them that this is an important historic building. It has a significant place in Sheffield heritage.
“It is part of our working-class history, it was designed for ordinary people to use which is a really interesting narrative.”
The three-storey building was originally called Highfield Cocoa and Coffee House. It was built in 1877 by cutlery and steel magnate Sir Frederick Thorpe Mappin to keep working-class men out of pubs.
In the planning application, put forward by Spring Planning Ltd on behalf of applicants Keeton’s Management Services Ltd, the building and former Tramway pub next door would both be demolished to make way for ground-floor retail space and 22 apartments above. Neighbouring offices would be turned into 37 apartments with parking and landscaping.
Coun Ridler said that the fact that the building was later repurposed shows it has potential to be redeveloped again.
In its application for planning permission, the agent said the building was “in a poor state of repair” and was not viable to be renovated.
Robin Hughes said: “It is our suspicion that the developer is concerned that a decision at the planning committee might go against them. This is a way of avoiding that decision being made.”
He said that the future of the building should be decided by democratically-elected councillors, taking into account the views of all concerned parties.
Mr Hughes said that order is not used much in Sheffield. He only discovered it because the Victorian Society is campaigning for legislation to stop that type of demolition order affecting buildings of merit. He looked to see how many had been made in Sheffield in recent months and found the application.
He said that the council had not informed objectors to planning permission about the application.
*We have approached Spring Planning Ltd for comment but have not yet had a response.