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Old Town Hall: Mystery buyer takes on landmark

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Photo by Chard Remains (Save Sheffield Old Town Hall)

Sheffield's Old Town Hall has been sold to a new owner, in a council announcement that took campaigners for the building's preservation by surprise.

The building has fallen into serious disrepair since it was last used as the city's crown court in 1997.

"We're delighted that a buyer has been found for the Old Town Hall, which has been empty for many years," Cabinet Member for Business & Investment Mazher Iqbal told Now Then.

"This building has a special place in our hearts as the first home for the council and latterly as the city's main court house," he continued. Councillor Iqbal told us that the new owner has asked not to be identified.

It's complex because there are three enormous full height court rooms that are top lit

Previous owners G1 London Properties Ltd had done little with the building since buying it in 2004, leading to frustration among campaigners, local residents and councillors.

In a statement, campaigning group Save Sheffield Old Town Hall described the sale as "very welcome", adding that the buyer "will gain much kudos in the city if he has the right sort of plans and the resources to deliver on them."

The building has been Grade II listed since 1973, but pictures from urban explorers show that it's been allowed to decay significantly in recent years.

Save Sheffield Old Town Hall produced their own business model in 2017, that would see the building house "a financially sustainable business that is mixed use."

The obvious thing that a lot of developers would want to do is turn it into a boutique hotel or flats

The group's proposals included managed workspace, performance rehearsal space, food and drink and lettable meeting rooms.

"It's complex because there are three enormous full height court rooms that are top lit," group chair Valerie Bayliss told Now Then. "One of them doesn't have any external walls at all, it's embedded in the middle of the building."

"The obvious thing that a lot of developers would want to do is turn it into a boutique hotel or flats," she said. "Because of the shape of it, the only way you could do that is by ripping out everything that makes the building worth keeping."

After pressure from the council, the building's previous owners have undertaken a small amount of urgent repair work in recent months, including the removal of rubbish stored inside.

The new owners have been invited to attend a meeting of Save Sheffield Old Town Hall on 28 March to outline their plans for the building.

Sam Gregory

Save Sheffield Old Town Hall public meeting and AGM takes place on 28 March at the Gardeners' Rest.

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