'We are glad someone has come forward to rescue this building' - Sheffield cabinet member on why plans for Old Town Hall are good for city
A senior councillor says he is relieved one of Sheffield’s most historic buildings will be developed, despite objections from heritage campaigners.
Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, has responded to criticism about the refurbishment of the Old Town Hall at Castlegate.
Earlier this week, developers were granted permission to convert the Grade II listed building into a hotel, apartments and Souk market after it had stood empty for 23 years.
Conservationist Nigel Slack challenged Coun Iqbal at a Cabinet meeting and said: “One of the most significant buildings within the city centre is to have its identity and significance as a heritage asset gutted.
“Against the objections and concerns of heritage experts, this council has chosen private developer profit over respect for the significance of this heritage asset.
“This proposal is woefully short on detail in respect of the safeguarding of the internal fixtures and fittings - the very features that define its history and its place in Sheffield's heart.”
But Coun Iqbal said he had been a Cabinet member for almost three years and one of his goals was to bring the building back into use.
“We are relieved that somebody has come forward after 20 odd years to rescue this building.
“The council pursued the previous developer and even took them to court to get access. We have worked with the Victorian Society and had conversations about compulsory purchase orders but because of the costs of acquiring and refurbishing the building, the council just didn’t have the resources to bring it back into use.
“Nobody has come and touched that building for the best part of 20 years and the previous owner was just letting it decay. Each time we tried to do something via the courts, they put plans in then didn’t fulfil them and it just dragged on.
“The current developer came in and was quite clear he wanted to preserve what he could and breathe life into this building.
“We have been in regular contact with the Friends Group and they recognise the importance of bringing this building back into use.”