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Old Coroners' Court: 1913 building threatened again with demolition

Fresh plans have been submitted to demolish the Old Coroners' Court on Nursery Street.

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The Old Coroners' Court on Nursery Street

The building, which dates from 1913, was threatened with demolition in August before developers withdrew their plans after public outcry and objections from the Victorian Society.

New plans have been submitted by Surrey's Firestone Developments to clear the site, with the company saying they have been unable to reach agreement with the Council on a scheme that keeps the existing building.

"We recognise that the building has a history as the past Coroner's Court for Sheffield," George Johnston of Firestone Developments told Now Then. "However, it is not listed nationally, nor locally via a process previously undertaken by the City Council to identify the city's most important buildings."

When the previous application to demolish the Old Coroner's Court was withdrawn in August, Sheffield Council said that councillors had "renewed their commitment" to the building. "Today's announcement is further positive news for the Castlegate area," the Council said at the time.

Following last year's withdrawn application, campaigners urged the Council to issue an Article 4 direction, which would have provided temporary protection to the building before a conservation area could be established.

However this was not issued and what was described as a "special building" by then cabinet member Jack Scott is again under threat of demolition.

Cllr Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment, declined Now Then's request for comment on the most recent application and did not explain why an Article 4 direction wasn't issued.

"Developers know how to exploit the government's relaxation of planning laws," Green Party councillor Douglas Johnson told Now Then. "If [the developer] gets to destroy a heritage building before putting in a planning application for a standard block of flats, it can't be taken into account when the planning committee makes a decision because it has physically gone.

"All the same, a developer and architect with expertise in developing heritage buildings would have found ways of making the most of the heritage assets in this building."

In October, 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," Johnston of Firestone Developments told Now Then. "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."

Coincidentally the company shares its name with the Firestone Factory in Brentford, which was demolished in 1980 before it could be listed as a significant Art Deco building. It later inspired the UK movement to protect 20th-century architecture.

In the last few weeks, a consultation on a proposed Castlegate conservation area was cancelled at the last minute. Cllr Iqbal told The Star that he was not happy with work undertaken on the proposals.

The proposed conservation area would have made it more difficult for developers to demolish the Old Coroners' Court.

"It is probably no coincidence the cabinet member cancelled the public consultation on the conservation area at the same time this demolition notice was announced," said Cllr Johnson. "The architect involved in the scheme has gone on public record with his opposition to conservation areas.

"It seems to me this Council is so desperate to attract property developers, it will sacrifice the remaining pieces of the city's heritage and bend over backwards to attract them at any cost, instead of searching out the economic benefit of irreplaceable heritage buildings."

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