Sheffield’s historic buildings including Rare and Racy saved from demolition should be revitalised, say councillors

City ward councillors said Sheffield Council’s decision to block plans to replace historic buildings with modern offices is a chance to revitalise them.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 4:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 4:30 pm

Councillors on the planning and highways committee voted to refuse proposals to replace three vacant Georgian buildings between 162-170 Devonshire Street with modern, glass-fronted, grey-brick offices on grounds of amenity and design impact in a meeting yesterday.

The buildings included the site of the once famous Rare & Racy record shop which Jarvis Cocker, Pulp frontman, described as a “global treasure”.

Ahead of the decision, there were more than 60 written objections to the plans, including from Hallamshire Historic Buildings and the residents’ association for the city centre.

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Rare & Racy.

This included all three Green City ward councillors who said: “There is no good reason for demolition of this core piece of Sheffield’s heritage, a decent, solid, not-very-flashy building that epitomises so much of the Sheffield that residents – young and old – find attractive…

“The answer is not to flatten it and finalise the tragedy of its loss but to revitalise it. Overlooking the popular Devonshire Green, there is hope for this fine setting if only its Sheffield heritage were respected. It could be a superb backdrop to those summer afternoons on the grass; it could be the reassuring brickwork to huddle against on wet autumn evenings.

“A soulless office block does none of this.”

Following the committee meeting, Councillor Douglas Johnson, City ward councillor and leader of Sheffield Green Party, said the decision was a chance to revitalise it.

Artists' impression of the scheme that has been rejected.

Green councillor Brian Holmshaw, member of the committee, added: “Turning down the new building is good news for the Devonshire Quarter. But there is a bigger job to be done by all of Sheffield’s councillors to safeguard the rest of the city’s built heritage…

“For my part I’d like to see this and other areas of special character in the city upgraded to full conservation areas to afford them even greater protection.”

But Charles Dunn, director at Urbana Town Planning, said in the meeting the proposal would have enhanced the streetscene with vibrancy and a building with real design quality and “any retention of the existing buildings is simply not possible”.