Rotherham’s historic Firbeck Hall, which dates to the 16th Century, could be saved with an £11m restoration plan which would see it converted into apartments with more new homes going up in its grounds.
Although the scheme has caused concern in the village that the area’s small roads would be unable to cope with extra traffic from residents, the proposals have been broadly welcomed as a way of saving a historic building which has been unoccupied for around 25 years and is now seriously affected by dry and wet rot in its timbers.
Councillors on Rotherham’s planning board are being recommended to grant both planning permission and Listed building consent for changes to the Grade II Listed building and its stable block, which spent much of the 20th Century being used as a country club and then a WW2 hospital, which continued in use until the 1990s.
The site covers more than 13 hectares, which is mostly wooded, and the hall itself would be reconfigured to create 21 apartments, though externally door and window openings would remain largely unchanged, with communal interior spaces said to be expected to be restored to the standards of the 1930s when the building was used as a club.
More apartments would be created in the stable block, with eight new homes taking up the site of a modern annex, which would be demolished as part of the redevelopment.
A further house, of a contemporary style, would also be built in a walled garden and although that would be unlike other buildings in appearance, planners do not object because it would be largely out of sight.
The application to restore the hall has been made by Sophia Property Developments Ltd, with a total projected cost for the scheme of just over £11m.
The financial breakdown has been provided for planners to illustrate that the “enabling” aspects of the scheme, the new homes, are necessary because restoring the existing buildings alone would not be economically viable.
Public consultations over the plans have already taken place, with support for the scheme registered, and planners have been told in a report: “The scheme provides for conservation of valuable, irreplaceable, heritage assets which are currently in extremely poor condition and are at considerable risk in the absence of a suitable scheme.”
The Save Britain’s Heritage group is in favour of the work and makes the observation that the new properties needed to make the scheme viable would not overwhelm the historic buildings and would also be built in a “sympathetic” style.
Although residents have raised concerns about the impact on traffic, Rotherham Council’s highways department have looked at the proposals and have not raised objections.