Firestone Developments, which wants to replace the riverside building just outside the city centre with a five-storey apartment block, has been given the green light to knock it down.
Because the building is not listed or in a conservation area, the developer was only required to submit a ‘demolition notice’, to which the council has very limited grounds on which to object.
Planning officers yesterday decided no ‘prior approval’ was required, leaving Firestone free to bring in the bulldozers.
The developer agreed to demolish the building only to ‘ground slab’ level so archaeological investigations can take place before the site is developed, given what council planners described as the ‘historic nature of the building’.
Firestone initially submitted a demolition notice last summer for the two-storey 1913 building on Nursery Street, near the Wicker, only to withdraw it following fierce opposition from heritage groups in the city.
Having gone back to the drawing board, it claimed there were no financially viable options to retain the building as part of a new development which met with the approval of council planners, who objected to the height of the alternative proposals.
The planned demolition has proved particularly controversial as the second notice was submitted just weeks after the council abruptly cancelled consultation on already delayed proposals for a Castlegate conservation area, which would have incorporated Nursery Street.
It also failed to respond to an application by Councillor Douglas Johnson for an article 4 direction which would have offered similar protection, leading him to accuse the council of displaying a ‘lack of backbone’ when it comes to protecting the city's heritage.
Firestone said in its demolition notice that it expects the demolition works to begin on July 1 and be completed by September 23.
It claimed the vacant building, which was previously used as a business centre, had been ‘progressively unsafe’ following ‘constant’ break-ins and was ‘unsuitable to be re
The developer has yet to submit a planning application for the apartment block it hopes to build on the site.
Colin Walker, Sheffield Council’s interim head of planning, said: “As a planning service, we really do have very limited options when a demolition notice comes in for a privately-owned building that isn’t listed.
“We understand this has generated concern and we will continue to work with the developer to ensure their plans move forward smoothly.”
A spokesman for Firestone Developments said: “Our intention has always been to bring forward a development that is commercially viable and can contribute significantly to the regeneration of the Wicker area, further establishing it as a place to live, work and socialise. With this approval, we hope to now make progress in delivering our scheme.”