Campaigners fighting to save Sheffield’s Old Town Hall have stepped up pressure on the council to force the owners to sell up ‘before it is too late'.
They have launched a petition, which has been signed more than 150 times within the first 24 hours, to get the council to use compulsory purchase powers to buy the building.
The Grade II-listed building, opposite the former Castle Market site, has fallen into ruin since it was closed in 1996.
The Friends of the Old Town Hall has put together its own proposals to rescue the building and return it to public hands, having grown tired of waiting for the private owner to come up with its own plans.
Now the group wants the council to step in and use compulsory purchase owners to force the owner to sell so the building can be saved.
After more than 20 years of decay, campaigners say the building is in ‘grave danger’ and action is needed before it falls into irreversible ruin.
The online petition states: “We need Sheffield City Council to us its powers of compulsory purchase NOW to get the building off the owners so that we can press forward with our restoration plans before the building deteriorates even further.
“We’ve been talking to the council for over a year about compulsory purchase, but the wheels grind slowly - we need action NOW, no more delays….
“Please sign our petition to Save Sheffield Old Town Hall before it’s too late. We know what can be done. And we are up for it. Are you?”
The building was bought in 2004 by G1 London Properties and had been listed for sale. Despite rumours the owner is now preparing its own plans to convert the premises into luxury apartments, a planning application has yet to materialise.
The group wants to restore the building to its former glory, converting the interior, including the old court rooms and underground cells, for a variety of uses including a performance space, restaurant and offices, at an estimated cost of £10 million.
It has floated the idea of inviting members of the public to buy community shares to help fund the initial purchase of the building and the cost of preparing grant applications for the restoration work.
It is now more than 18 months since the council announced £786,000 to revive the Castlegate quarter, which included funding for urgent repairs to the Old Town Hall.
But the friends group says it is still waiting for the leaky roof to be patched up to prevent further damage to the interior.
The petition only went live on the Change.org website yesterday, but already had 155 signatures by 2pm today.
The Star has contacted Sheffield Council for a comment.