Historic cobbles ripped out two years ago still ‘a mess’

Councillor Douglas Johnson standing on Cornish Street
Councillor Douglas Johnson standing on Cornish Street

Residents and businesses in Kelham Island are still blocked off by a stretch of historic cobblestones that were ripped out by Sheffield City Council two years ago.

In September 2016 Amey contractors ripped out cobblestones on Cornish Street, in the industrial conservation area of Kelham Island, as part of the £2.2bn Streets Ahead contract with the council.

Cornish Street, Kelham Island

Cornish Street, Kelham Island

But the work was put on hold after a businessman complained, leaving broken cobblestones strewn across the road.

Two years later, the road is still fenced off from residents and workers from nearby offices.

Green Party Councillor Douglas Johnson, City ward, raised the issue with Amey when work was first done and has been keeping track of updates since.

He said: “There’s been very poor progress, we can’t say there’s been none, but it’s such a stop-start process that, as a result, the road is still closed off.

Cobblestones split in half where the road has been ploughed through

Cobblestones split in half where the road has been ploughed through

“It’s just been promises all along and things that are obviously not true. There were all kinds of reasons why work wasn’t being done at different times; lots of arguments going backwards and forwards between Amey and the council trying to agree on a plan, and this was after they had already dug it up.

“There were also delays in getting contractors in, the weather was another one, some blame was put on the adjacent building. But a lot of the time it was just stone-walling and not replying. So, a pretty poor level of service.”

On a visit to the site, it was clear to see cobbles had been cut in half and historic pavestones smashed and left in a pile. Coun Douglas said they were irreplaceable and called the work “thoughtless”.

He added that as well as being integral to the historic character of an area, cobblestones are also very valuable and are often taken out to be used elsewhere.

The dug up cobblestones on Cornish Street, Kelham Island

The dug up cobblestones on Cornish Street, Kelham Island

He added: “I reckon if they had started out with a plan of what they wanted to do and laying the cobbles properly, they could have easily spent two months doing it.

“It’s actually a big undertaking but, as we now know, they never had any intention of protecting the heritage and are now being backed into this corner. But it should have certainly been finished by now.”

Sarah Shields, of ABA Architecture whose offices are next to the road, said: “It looks a mess. It doesn’t give you a lot of confidence really that they are going to sort it, if it’s been left like this for so long. It’s like it’s just dropped down the list of priorities really.

“If they concentrated on getting this right then you might think ‘they really are bothered’ but if they won’t do this, what else won’t they do?

The stretch of ripped out cobblestones on Cornish Street

The stretch of ripped out cobblestones on Cornish Street

“It’s quite dangerous as much as anything else. Obviously ‘to make an omelette you’ve got to break an egg’ but actually the stones are all smashed up – are they going to replace these? Probably not. It’s a very Heath Robinson approach.”

The small road leads to a large residential area, Cornish Place, where residents say they have struggled to get home, park or take deliveries as a result of the work.

James Nicholas, who lives in one of the flats, said: “My main issues are the absolute lack of communication from the council, and the dangerous situation that was left when they downed tools several months ago.

“There’s a clear lack of joined up thinking, and when you call the council and Amey they fob you off with platitudes and nothing is done.

“Amey seem to be operating with absolute impunity and the job they’re doing simply isn’t good enough.”

Nick Hetherington, network account manager at Amey, apologised for the delays and said they had recently made some progress.

He said: “We are aware that work to restore the cobbles on Cornish Street is ongoing and we apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.

“Our priority on this street is to ensure the surface is constructed using appropriate materials to retain as much of the historic character of the area as possible.

“We have recently identified and agreed a suitable material with the council’s conservation team and work is scheduled to begin in coming weeks.

“Unfortunately, progress on Cornish Street has taken longer than we originally anticipated and we would like to thank residents and local business for their patience during this period.”