Hallamshire Historic Buildings praise councillors for saving Sheffield city centre chimneyss

Hallamshire Historic Buildings (HHB) said there were important lessons to be learned from Sheffield Council rejecting Heart of the City II plans to save historic chimneys.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 10:28 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 10:28 am

This latest part of the council’s multi-million pound project related to the Pepperpot building in Block C (which is bound by Pinstone Street, Cambridge Street and Charles Street).

Developers asked for permission to change its original plans, which were agreed with the council, by reducing the number of historic chimneys – designed by architects Flockton and Gibbs – it was replicating to only one and the number of roof windows from 11 to six.

Councillors voted almost unanimously against the advice of officers and rejected the plans in a meeting this week.

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Chimneys prominent on the Pepperpot roof.

Robin Hughes, of HHB who spoke against the plans at the meeting, said councillors should be commended for standing up for Sheffield’s fast-disappearing heritage, as they recently have for the Devonshire Street shops, Wiggan Farm and Bennett Cottage.

He said: “It was typical of our city’s self-deprecation when one councillor said that we might not have the best buildings in the world, but they are our buildings.

"True, they’re not always the fanciest, but every one tells a rich and varied story that is as resonant and as meaningful as any to be found elsewhere. Let no-one say that our built heritage is not the equal of any in the world. It is worth defending. It is worth celebrating.”

Lessons to be learned

The Pepperpot as designed in 1884 complete with spire.

Mr Hughes said there were important lessons to be learned from the decision.

“It shows just how important it is to set the bar high for heritage in the first place,” he said. “Developers will be back with proposals to water down their promises, and heritage will be their first port of call when they would like to make savings. The committee sent a clear message that they should now think twice…

“Sheffield has a rather ignoble record of keeping the prettiest façades, and considering that ‘job done’.

“This is poor conservation practice, poor on climate change (all that embodied carbon wasted), and technically much harder, because a façade is not designed to stand up on its own.

Rear of facades on Pinstone Street revealed by demolition.

“We have just found this out the hard way with the Pepperpot. Previous attempts to push through schemes to demolish it led to years of neglect and deterioration. Had the plan been to keep it as a whole building, with its surviving interior properly maintained, then there would be no crisis now.

“Like the very similar Laycock House, by now it could be all set to go back to its original purpose as smart city centre apartments. No expensive scaffolding to prop it up, and no head-scratching over how to fulfil a promise to hang heavy chimneys over empty space.”

What could be done going forward?

He suggested an open discussion perhaps through the council’s heritage champion or its conservation advisory group could help reach compromises in the future.

Heart of the City Block C looms over the retained Pepperpot facade.

“The planning process is a blunt instrument”, he said. “Submitting this application on a ‘take it or leave it’, ‘all or nothing’ basis, gambling on the response of the committee, has not turned out well for anyone.”