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Councillors vote to block new plans for historic bookshop site

A controversial planning application to replace the former site of second-hand bookshop Rare & Racy with a new office block has been rejected by the Planning Committee.

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The former site of Rare & Racy.

Councillors on Sheffield City Council's Planning Committee have rejected plans to demolish the historic former home of bookshop Rare & Racy.

The small building on Devonshire Green dates from 1827, and housed the much-loved second-hand bookshop and record store between 1969 and 2017, when it was forced to close for redevelopment.

"It's good that these offensive new proposals have been rejected – they would have such a negative effect on the area," Nick Roscoe of Hallamshire Historic Buildings told Now Then.

"Of course this does nothing to erase the harm already done by the treatment of Rare and Racy in particular."

Developer Primesite UK initially promised a like-for-like replacement for the building, and won planning permission to demolish the existing building on that basis in 2015.

Adam Murray of application agents CODA Planning told Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders in 2014 that he would "not be able to tell the difference" between the old building and its replacement.

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The rejected proposals for the Rare & Racy site submitted by Primesite UK.

That application was approved despite considerable public opposition and a 21,000 signature petition opposing demolition. A Judicial Review requested by campaigners was turned down.

No visible work on the site has taken place since then, and the building has remained empty and unused.

In November last year, a new application was submitted by Primesite UK for a totally different building on the site.

As part of the new application, agents Urbana Town Planning argued that the principle for demolishing the existing building had "already been established" by the previous application.

No reason has been given as to why the like-for-like replacement was never built despite gaining planning permission, but the new proposals contained significantly more floor space in a four-storey block.

The directors of Primesite UK, which is based on Cemetery Road, are listed on Companies House as being Michael John Nelson, David Earnest Hinchliffe and David Scott Hinchliffe.

The Law Gazette reports that Nelson was 'struck off the roll' as a solicitor in 2000 for "unbefitting conduct" relating to a mortgage, and that his actions "went beyond mere negligence or inadvertence."

He is now a Senior Lecturer in Property Law at Sheffield Hallam University.

At today's meeting, planning officers at Sheffield City Council recommended that councillors approve the application, despite noting widespread public opposition.

Roscoe, who spoke against the application at the meeting, told councillors that the existing buildings were the oldest surviving purpose-built shops in Sheffield, and urged them to take ownership of a "desperate situation" with regards to heritage in the city.

Planning officers then told councillors that the principle of demolishing the existing buildings did not carry over from the previously approved application, and had to be reconsidered.

Referencing Prince Charles, Labour councillor Peter Price called the proposal "a carbuncle", adding "it's out of character and it shouldn't be allowed."

Councillor Barbara Masters agreed with Price, calling the building "totally out of keeping," while fellow Liberal Democrat Bob McCann said, "It may be modern, but I really don't like it."

Cllr Tim Huggan of the Lib Dems and Cllr Peter Garbutt of the Green Party also spoke against the proposals.

The originally approved application from 2014 for a like-for-like replacement is still outstanding, but the developers can only demolish the existing building once a building contract for a replacement is signed.

At the meeting, a representative for the developer said the previous proposal was economically unviable.

"The question now is, what is going to happen to these buildings?" Roscoe told Now Then.

"Primesite are saying the previous scheme is no longer commercially viable. We know those buildings are perfectly viable: as shops for small independent businesses, something Sheffield needs now as much as ever.

"It'll be up to Primesite but perhaps they've reached a point where they decide to sell."

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