The owner of Sheffield's Old Town Hall is drawing up plans to convert the historic building into flats, it is understood.
The news has sparked concerns about what will happen to the once grand interior of the Grade II-listed premises, which were home to the city's courts but have fallen into derelicition.
The derelict building is still listed for sale but it is understood the freeholder G1 London Properties now hopes to develop the landmark itself, following a lack of interest from potential buyers.
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The owner has yet to submit a planning application or comment publicly on its intentions, but the Friends of the Old Town Hall group says it has been able to glean more about G1's vision from speaking to workers entering the site.
Speaking at the group's AGM yesterday, chairwoman Valerie Bayliss said: "It seems the owners, after years of neglect, have appointed architects and surveyors, presumably with a view to submitting a planning application.
"The building is apparently to be turned into apartments, and this will take two years.
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"Consultants had told us conversion to flats could only go ahead at the expense of a very large part of the listed interior features."
The friends group is working on its own plans to buy the building and restore it for the community, with various uses including restaurants and performance spaces being considered.
It hopes to help fund the purchase by inviting members of the public to buy shares in the building, though it estimates full restoration would require 'well north' of £10 million which would have to come largely from grants.
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Ms Bayliss asked members whether, given the group had been set up with the aim of getting the Old Town Hall restored and brought back into use, they would support an application from G1 provided it did not damage the internal fabric of the building or they felt the group should push ahead with its own plans regardless.
The response was overwhelmingly in favour of the latter.
Ms Bayliss said: "The story of the last 14 years since G1 bought the Old Town Hall is not encouraging for the future of the building.
"The council and the city have been messed about royally by the owner and we think it's time for this to stop."
Monday's meeting also heard how despite recent activity at the site, the owner had still failed to supply the council with a key so urgent repairs to the roof could be carried out.
It is understood the council is pressing ahead with legal action to gain access to the building.
The friends group hopes to persuade the council to use compulsory purchase powers to force the owner to sell up, so the group can proceed with its plans to take over the building.