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Government overrule councillors to allow Coroner's Court demolition

A Sheffield building described by experts as being of "considerable historic importance" to the city will now be demolished after the government overruled councillors in favour of a Surrey-based developer.

Coroners court

The Old Coroner's Court on Nursery Street, which is due to be demolished by a property developer.

It marks the end of a long-running battle over the Old Coroner's Court on Nursery Street, which Firestone Developments plan to demolish and replace with a block of flats.

Elected members of Sheffield's Planning Committee refused the most recent application to demolish the building in November, describing the proposed replacement as "looking like a multi-storey car park."

Firestone Developments appealed to the government's un-elected Planning Inspector who has now overruled the committee, saying that the new flats "contribute favourably towards the character and appearance of the area.”

“Planning decisions are entrusted to elected councillors to reflect the views of residents of the city," said committee member Cllr Peter Garbutt.

"It makes a mockery of the process to have the elected committee overruled by an official just because they have a different view of development in Sheffield.”

In recent years central government has moved to weaken democratic oversight of England's planning system, giving more powers to property developers and volume housebuilders.

According to The Guardian's Ollie Wainwright, the most recently announced changes will "effectively cut democratic input into the planning process by half."

"There is precious little evidence that any of the new measures could lead to higher quality, more attractive or more affordable homes," says Wainwright. "Instead, the proposals look set to deliver the exact opposite."

New building

The proposed new building, which Cllr Johnson described as "looking like a multi-storey car park"

Conservation organisations including The Victorian Society and SAVE Britain's Heritage have previously objected to the demolition of the Old Coroner's Court, which dates from 1913.

Hallamshire Historic Buildings have described the Edwardian building as "an asset to the local area, with features that echo some other fine buildings in the Lady's Bridge area."

In October 2018, a fire broke out in the building which South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue believe was started deliberately.

"We have no idea who is responsible for the arson attack," George Johnston of Firestone Developments told Now Then last year.

"The building has been fully secured since we took ownership of the site. However, as is often the case with buildings that have been vacant for some time [...] trespassers may attempt to gain access and it is very difficult to prevent a determined individual from succeeding."

City Ward councillor Douglas Johnson called the government's decision "a disappointing outcome."

"The sensitive re-use of historic buildings retains the irreplaceable, builds on local heritage, and significantly reduces carbon emissions," he said.

“Standard demolition and construction uses huge amounts of energy and releases far too much CO2 through use of concrete and steel. There must be more incentives to refurbish and refit buildings, not to destroy them and build from scratch.”

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