Residents left in the cold with Kelham Island development
When residents moved into a new development in the up-and-coming Little Kelham they were thrilled with their green homes.
The eco-friendly passive houses in Bakers Yard promised solar heating, rain water harvesting, airtight properties and a green rooftop but more than four years on, residents say their are living in cold homes and don’t even have street lighting.
Developers Citu were this week given permission to build another slim, five-storey block with a shop and two apartments close to the existing homes in Bakers Yard.
The plans were controversial and were only marginally passed when planning board chairman Coun Peter Rippon pushed them through with his casting vote after councillors were completely split.
A number of residents attended the planning meeting, not only to object to the latest development but also to complain about their existing homes.
Citu was originally going to build an energy centre, which residents say would have helped boost their heating. But the foundations were put in too close to the existing homes, just two metres away.
The energy centre was put on hold and Citu then abandoned that idea and instead asked – and was granted permission – for the five-storey block.
Residents say the new block would be too close and are worried the lack of sunlight will affect their solar energy. They say another tall apartment block on nearby Russell Street already overshadows them.
Kath Harding, chairman of the residents’ association at Little Kelham, said: “By allowing this, we are going to be punished twice because we are already overlooked and we’re going to get one even nearer and cancelling out even more of our sunlight.
“Our heating is largely dependent on natural light and ventilation. That is a problem for us because the heating is inadequate in winter anyway.
“The foundations were built almost two metres too close to our properties. In the original planning permission it was due to be an energy centre with office accommodation above.
“That was agreed before there were any residents in the location, we didn’t have the opportunity for any community consultation because we didn’t live there. We do now and we are very strongly opposed to this development.
“If the foundations were too close two years ago, to the point where the development was stopped, then they are too close now regardless of the fact there is a slimmer building on top.”
Ms Harding, who lives at Bakers Yard, told the planning board: “The only reason you approved the building in February 2018 was because you didn’t have significant community objections because developers said they would compromise and just put in an application for a one-storey building with a roof terrace.
“We now have, out of the blue, this information that they want a five-storey building with no discussion or communication.
“We are really grateful to planning officers for the amount of care they have taken to address the issues the community has raised, there are lots of objections considering we are quite a small group, pretty much everybody has objected.
“There is a lack of trust with the developers. Many things which were conditioned before haven’t been delivered. We don’t have rainwater harvesting and we still don’t have street lighting after a fourth winter so we have very little faith that those conditions will be properly met.
“One of the suggestions is to plant screens to prevent people being able to look into people’s living accommodation.
“There’s planting on the site already, it’s very poorly maintained so my confidence that the screen will be properly maintained is extremely low.
“I recognise you are under a lot of pressure to meet housing targets but I don’t think two units in an already overdeveloped site which will be detrimental to residents is the right way forward.”
Another neighbour, Ian Twiselton, said: “One of the main issues is the solar heating but my property is not airtight so the heating can’t cope with the extended cold conditions and any further loss of sunlight will exacerbate this for all of us.”
And Daniel Revel said Little Kelham was an industrial heritage site and this would be an “exceptionally tall” structure next to a two-storey building.
He told the committee: “We already have a five-storey building across the road on Russell Street but two wrongs don’t make a right. Two five-storey buildings shading over the Little Kelham site just hides the skyline.
“I’ve been here four-and-a-half years and we bought a passive house with rainwater harvesting and airtight houses but we have tested five houses over three phases and all of them have failed grossly on the airtightness test.
“The actual energy efficiency of our house is less than the council house we lived in previously.
“That building was originally for a district energy centre to help supply heating to the district which would be far more energy efficient and give us far more heating to the properties. That’s where the mistrust comes from.
“There are no electric car charging points and a green roof was built taller than planned so we can’t see it. We thought we were going to see a green roof. The complete development needs looking at.”
“Not a good news story” say councillors
A number of councillors said they were concerned after hearing residents’ complaints.
Coun Alan Law said: “I’m disappointed at what we have heard today. I have been a huge supporter of Kelham Island for many years and it will be a jewel in Sheffield’s crown.
“I hope developers will listen very carefully to my concerns about what is going on. Some goodwill is needed. It’s sad to see this is not a good news story.”
Coun Andrew Sangar said he was concerned about the ‘number of snagging issues’.
He said: “21st-century Sheffield requires a scheme like Kelham Island to be a success and we need to make sure we have a strategy of moving people into the city centre and redeveloping former industrial sites. There are a host of urban living issues and I’m so disappointed to hear residents say this.”
Coun Michelle Cook said she was keen for any development to succeed but added: “I am concerned about the solar energy and light through the windows so I hope some sort of investigation will be done into the quality of this development.”
And Coun David Baker added: “We are all very proud of the developments taking place in Kelham Island and we shouldn’t allow our enthusiasm to get in the way of our responsibility and duty. We shouldn’t let anything pass that is not absolutely first-class.”
Developers say they are listening
After the meeting, developer Citu said it had made significant amendments to its original design.
A spokesman said: “The Bakers Yard scheme is in replacement of a five-storey energy centre with accommodation in the upper floors which was approved as part of the original planning approval in 2012.
“It provides an important architectural anchor on the north-east corner of the development.
“As the energy centre was relocated elsewhere on the site, an amended scheme was required. Citu had proposed to turn the space into a rooftop garden for the community to enjoy but there were local objections and so we reverted back to the original planning form but changed the use to residential rather than office use.
“Citu has been open to concerns raised by The Conservation Advisory Group and has made significant amendments to form, scale and materiality as a result.”