Many readers concerned with the fate of our Grade 2 listed Central Library have been following the exchanges on the Sheffield Central Library Action Group page on Facebook.
CounJack Scott, who is the elected member in charge of the potential deal to lease the Library building to a Chinese company for conversion into a hotel, has to his credit engaged in the conversation; a refreshing change for our council.
Today, however, he has taken my breath away with his latest post – and not, as they say, in a good way. Someone raised the question whether our present Town Hall in Pinstone Street – a Grade 1 listed Victorian gem – was immune from the sort of civic vandalism going on in Liverpool, whose civic buildings (G2* listed) were put up for sale by the council there last autumn as ‘surplus to requirements’ and are now the subject of an offer from a Singapore company.
Coun Scott’s reply? “I’ve been asked this several times. We’ve said that if we had an approach re: TH then we would consider it. We haven’t had an approach for it so can’t consider it. We are not precious about ‘our’ space”.
In fairness, he does recognise the limitations implied by the Town Hall’s Grade 1 listing.
I suggest to Coun Scott that he and his colleagues could do with being a bit protective about Sheffield’s civic space, especially when the building concerned carries the highest statutory level of protection available. Grade 1 listing means it’s in the same category as places like Buckingham Palace. And I am sorry he thought fit to suggest that concern about the city’s best buildings is ‘precious’.
I am not naive about the dire state of the council’s finances, which will be even worse from 2020 when all general grants from central government are withdrawn (and I wonder how many people realise just what an impact that is going to have).
But there have to be some limits. Civic pride alone should remove the Town Hall from consideration for disposal.
Is there no strategy but to scrabble for a quick buck whenever opportunity offers?
If the Town Hall is not sacrosanct, nothing is. Harold MacMillan criticised the Thatcher government for selling off the family silver. Looks like we are at risk of that here too.
Muskoka Avenue, S11