Sheffield's Old Town Hall plans 'unacceptable', says Victorian Society

Plans to regenerate Sheffield’s crumbling Old Town Hall have been branded ‘unacceptable’ by the Victorian Society.

Friday, 27th September 2019, 9:48 am
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 3:39 pm

The organisation, which in 2007 included the landmark in its first top 10 most endangered buildings list, says the proposals fail to demonstrate ‘an understanding of, and respect for, the building’s significance’.

It is particularly concerned about the fate of the main courtrooms, which would be converted into serviced apartments, with the removal of fixtures and fittings which the society argues lend those rooms much of their ‘historic interest’ and ‘special character’.

Plans to breathe new life into the Grade II-listed building on Waingate, creating an indoor ‘souk’ style marketplace, hotel ‘pods’ in the former cells and serviced apartments on the upper floors, were submitted last month by Aestrom OTH, which has an agreement in place to buy the premises from long-term owner G1 London Properties.

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The Victorian Society says in its response to the application that while it ‘strongly supports’ the building’s revival in principle, the ‘a lack of detailed assessment of either the significance of the building or the impact of the proposals is unacceptable’.

While the building’s exterior would be largely unaltered, under the proposals, the developer argues that more major modifications are required within to secure the landmark’s ‘viable long-term future’.

It insists those internal works have been ‘sensitively designed to retain and restore many of the internal features’, though the courtroom benches are among the fixtures which would have to be removed.

The building dates from 1808 but has been expanded and altered extensively over the years to meet the city’s shifting needs.

The Victorian Society believes these developments tell the story of Sheffield’s ‘explosive growth as an industrial city’, and it claims the developer is therefore wrong to dismiss later parts of the building as less significant and suitable for demolition or alteration.

It concludes: “The Victorian Society is pleased that, after decades of neglect, there is now some evidence of concrete proposals to breathe new life into Sheffield’s Old Town Hall. For the reasons given above, however, we cannot support the current application.”

The Friends of the Old Town Hall, which had developed its own plans to restore the building before the new buyer came along, has also objected to the plans.

The group’s response states: “The need for restoration should not outweigh the need for sympathetic and appropriate restoration. We do not believe these applications achieve an appropriate balance.”

It also criticises the application as ‘seriously deficient’ in some respects, including the lack of any images showing how the interior would look.

To view the application, visit Sheffield Council’s planning portal and search for 19/03052/FUL.