Expert Opinion

The planning officers working this scheme were strongly opposed to the plans.  After many months of meetings and exchanges this letter was sent off the Chris Miele, the University’s agent, employed to get the scheme through planning.  This letter had the approval of The Head of Planning David Caulfield and the Head of Development Les Sturch.

Less than three weeks before the Christmas planning meeting, the Head of Urban Design and Conservation at Sheffield Council, John Stonard, advised the first author of the planning committee report:

john stonard - indicates widespread disapproval at council and condemns design and conservation implications says plans in breach of nppfPrior to seeking planning permission to demolish The Edwardian Jessop building, Sheffield University had in 2009 obtained planning permission for a sympathetic redevelopment of the Edwardian building.  You can learn more about those plans here. As part of the submission of those plans, they commissioned a historical report into the building.  This report lacks any of the ‘doing down’ of the building which the University (in partnership with architects RMJM) went on to do as part of their propaganda to support demolition.  The change of tack from this to the awful ‘Heritage Statement’ of the 2012 plans speaks volumes.  This report can still be downloaded from the council’s planning site here

As part of planning procedure certain bodies were consulted: The statutory amenity consultee, The Victorian Society (Edwardian buildings included) and the local Hallamshire Historic Buildings Society, also Sheffield City Council’s own advisory groups: Sheffield Sustainable Development and Design Panel and the Sheffield Conservation Advisory Group.  All the groups rejected the plans.  It is (we are informed) because the statutory advisory group, The Victorian Society, objected to the plans that this case has been referred to the Secretary of State to review.

The comments of these groups are included below.

Sheffield City Council failed to consult the other statutory consultees – the National Amenity Societies.  In the end they reconvened (as secretly as possible) a second committee meeting, which included mention of fresh consultations ‘restrospectively’ obtained.  Though these consultations raised a number of new matters, the Council decided that all the new objections didn’t make any difference and ‘added nothing new’.  Alan Law, the Chairman of the planning committee, informed campaigners that they would be prevented from raising any other issues (for example all that had arisen from revelations contained in the freedom of information responses).   This distinctly undemocratic and regressive act was cited as one reason for Judicial Review by SAVE Britain’s Heritage and The Victorian Society’s legal team  (alongside misinterpretations of NPPF133).  The Council Solicitor claimed in her witness statement that she advised Mr Law to allow campaigners to ‘speak unfettered’.  No one heard this, no one noticed her whisper in Mr Law’s ear, and the claim was contradicted by a number of witness statements, but this was good enough for Mr Justice Supperstone.  Those amenity society consultations here

Victorian Society

“The proposals were considered by the Northern Buildings Committee of the Victorian Society at their October meeting. The Committee strongly object to the demolition of the 1902 block of the former Jessop Hospital which, they say, now comprises of two gothic revival wings of notable distinction. Constructed in red brick with stone dressings, the Committee state that the design of the 1902 block sympathetically takes its material and stylistic lead from the earlier entrance block.

The use of stone mullioned windows, a double string course between first and second floors, incised lintels and machicolated eaves are attractive and some of the common features of both wings. They consider that the 1902 block does not slavishly imitate its neighbour; rather it adopts a similar idiom resulting in a harmonious and unified architectural ensemble. The Edwardian structure is a thoughtfully crafted and handsome building in its own right making a positive contribution to the character of the area. It is prominently located and the design and detailing of the north-west corner facing Broad Lane has, by its buttressed corner turret, clearly been attentively composed to provide interesting views from a variety of angles.

While the Committee consider that the demolition of the Edwardian block would be a great loss in itself, they also think it would cause substantial harm to the significance and special architectural interest of the former hospital as a whole, with half the historical buildings and all evidence of any expansion post 1878 obliterated at a stroke. They state that the loss of a handsome heritage asset would undoubtedly harm the character of the area more generally.

In addition to the loss of a listed building, the Committee are resolutely opposed to its proposed replacement which, they say, fails so spectacularly to respond to its context. They query how the design has evolved of its place, stating that the submitted plans present not so much a thoughtfully designed building, rather a gross and arbitrary exercise in pattern-making which, as a result of its style, proportion and close proximity, would be extremely damaging to the setting of the remaining hospital building.

The Committee praise the University’s aspiration to provide the world’s finest engineering department, but are not convinced that the only way to achieve this goal is to demolish the former hospital’s Edwardian block. They note that the options appraisal shows that the building could be retained, that the remaining site is large and could accommodate a sizeable department building without resorting to the demolition of the listed structure, and that further space could be created by excavating down and by reducing the copious amount of open space within the central tract of the proposed building.

The Committee feel that the case for the demolition of the Edwardian building is further weakened by the contrasting Jessop East and West sites, querying why it is that space on the Jessop East site is restricted to the point that valuable heritage assets are proposed for demolition while the recent Jessop West building occupies only a relatively small proportion of its site. They state that together, the two sites give no sense of an integrated plan involving the adjacent plots.

The Committee also point to the Victorian hospital’s original wing as an excellent
model for how to reuse the Edwardian block.”

The Sheffield Sustainable Development and Design Panel

Information about the panel and its role here.   This report, returned to the SCC planning dept in May, only materialised on the SCC planning website a week before the planning committee meeting in December.

“The Panel welcomed the opportunity to comment on these important proposals at their meeting on the 19th April 2012, and recognised the strategic importance of the scheme for the University and the city. The extensive amount of work that had been undertaken to develop the two options was noted by the Panel, together with the numerous iterations as the design has progressed.

Notwithstanding this, the Panel was mindful of the rigorous requirements that need to be met to justify the demolition of the Edwardian Block, which it did not consider had been demonstrated. These are that the building is incapable of alternative use, not for this particular scheme but for any scheme, and even for an alternative owner after a period of marketing.

Whilst the Panel accepted the view expressed that the Edwardian block did not meet the requirements of the University this is not, however, sufficient in itself to justify the demolition and significant further analysis was necessary to respond to this issue.

There was a view expressed that a section of the building could be removed, which could be a viable compromise option.

The Panel acknowledged the demands of the brief, and how this had increased, but was similarly mindful of the comment that in any event even a building of this scale would not satisfy the long term requirements of the University.

There was a real concern expressed that the proposals were placing too great a demand on the site, suppressing the fine grain townscape of the area.

The Panel was not convinced about the approach to create one single volume, which it considered exaggerated the extreme scale of the building.

The atrium space had the potential to be a very exciting space running through the
heart of the building, but the façade treatment suppressed the activity taking place
within the building, and it was considered that some further design development
was needed to express this internal animation.

The Panel noted the argument in relation to the introduction of a spill out space at
the main entrance, located at the corner of Leavygreave Road and St George’s
Terrace, but was not convinced that this was necessary or appropriate in this

The Panel agreed with the assessment that the existing space between the historic
buildings and Jessop West was in need of a greater focus and level of activity, and
considered that this would form a more appropriate gathering and meeting space
and resolve the lack of animation in the space. To this end there appeared to be a
need for a clearer relationship between the atrium and this space.

The Panel largely welcomed the bold approach to the elevational treatment but this
view was not unanimous. The mathematical approach to window dimensions
linked to the needs of interior spaces has the potential to create a striking solution
but, as stated above, the wrap approach exacerbates the massing by reinforcing
the building as a single object. It was considered that greater articulation of the elevations might help to break down the form, helping to create a more
sympathetic response to the site.

The Panel commended the design team on the approach taken to create a
sustainable building, and the ambitious targets being set by the University. The
range of elements being considered, such as the investigation of a carbon
optimised façade and the development of an ‘app’ that students could access,
reflected the function of the building, and the Panel felt that these measures
needed to be developed further as the design progressed.

In conclusion, the Panel appreciated the requirements of the University and
welcomed the options as a positive starting point in the redevelopment of the site.
Whilst the need for this amount of floorspace was understood, more work was
required to accommodate this scale of development working on this site, and the
Panel was mindful that significant further work would need to be done to justify the
demolition of the Edwardian block.

Whilst the ambitions of sustainability and the façade treatment were applauded, the
Panel was not entirely convinced by the wrap approach, which both emphasised
the scale of the building and obscured the internal activity.”

SHEFFIELD Conservation Advisory Group

SCAG is a panel of experts who gather to advise Sheffield City Council on planning applications with any impact on conservation of heritage assets for the City of Sheffield.  Members from English Heritage, Victorian Society, Sheffield City of Architects, CPRE, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and many other important bodies are part of this panel.

“The Group deplored the proposal to demolish the Edwardian Building, which was not simply an extension to the Victorian building, but had been a building in its own right with a distinct contribution to the Hospital. Apart from its contribution as part of the historic hospital, the Edwardian wing made an important impact on the townscape of Brook Hill, which was all the more important because of the demolition of the 1930s St George’s Wing. The Group considered the proposed replacement building to be unsatisfactory in both massing and detail in its relation to the setting of the Victorian wing of the hospital, which it would overwhelm, and the Grade II* St George’s Church. The Group did not think that all the options, either for locating the new Engineering Building on another site, or for developing the site while retaining the Edwardian wing, had been properly explored. There appeared to be some inefficiencies in the use of space in the proposed building, which, if eliminated, could ensure the retention of the Edwardian wing. The Group also noted that since the beginning of the century, very few listed buildings had been demolished and none as important as the Jessop Edwardian wing. The Group requested the Chair to write to the Head of Planning, stating the Group’s objections to the scheme and to request a meeting with John Mothersole, Chief Executive and Simon Green, Head of Place, Sheffield City Council.”

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