About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Devonshire Street Demolition – Approved.

Many people will now be aware that the proposed demolition of numbers 62 – 70 Devonshire Street was approved by the City Council's Planning Committee today. Some will be worried that this is the end of an era for independent shops on Devonshire Street. I hope to show you that this is not necessarily the case.

Round one of the fight is over, round two is about to begin. The heritage groups involved in objecting to this proposal have made it clear that, if they can raise the funds, they will challenge this decision through the full extent of the planning process. This is hugely important because if today has proved one thing it is that there is a hole in the planning provisions of this city that you could drive a coach and horses through.

The way that planning officers today interpreted the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework (the National laws that govern planning processes) means that developers are now free to do almost anything they want, to any building in Sheffield, heritage asset or not, and the City Council is unlikely to oppose them through fear of litigation. The decision made today about the demolition of Devonshire Street sets a precedent that means almost any protection offered by the NPPF guidelines can be watered down so to prevent developers from threatening to challenge negative decisions.

Today's decision was a matter of balance. The planning officer admitted as much, the Councillors on the committee were made aware of that fact and we, as objectors tried to make it clear to them that this meant they did have a real choice. This was not a matter of the committee being unable to legitimately deny the application, it was a case of whether the committee was prepared to accept the potential of a challenge as the price of doing the right thing. They were not, at least not enough of them were.

The reason that this has arisen lays directly at the door of the City Council. Sheffield last legitimised it's planning guidelines in 1998 when it developed what is termed the Unitary Development Plan. This gave planners and developers details of what was and was not allowed within the city when it came to new development, demolition and other planning issues. This UDP has been amended by various other plans since. Specific plans for different quarters of the city, the city centre living strategy, guidance on the night time economy and others. The main provisions however have never been reviewed. Other overall development plans for the city have been developed and discussed but none have been adopted.

The UDP is now so old that the city's own planning department will no longer rely on it to protect the city or it's heritage from the ravages of profit hungry developers.

It's restrictions and guidelines are considered out of date and therefore almost irrelevant to the planning process. How can we expect planning officers to make the reasonable and robust decisions we need when their guidelines are almost non existent. This needs addressing and addressing soon before even more of the city's heritage is, as one Committee member commented this afternoon, “...slowly nibbled away piece by piece...”. With one notable exception the Labour ranks in the Planning Committee seem ill prepared to stand up for the city and the people that elected them.

Round one is over, round two is just beginning and a whole new battle is looming on the horizon. Is Sheffield up to the challenge?


  1. Fantastic, educative and forward thinking article. Cheers Nigel.

  2. Great article, thank you. Any idea who any of the heritage organisations are? I would like to donate, and perhaps there will be others willing to get some sort of fundraising campaign going?

  3. Thank you Nigel. A real shame, and I wish I could help. First Castle Market, now this. I was a Sheffield Undergraduate, now doing my MA in Sweden. Bought my wind-up gramophone from Rare and Racy, made friends with many from Castle Market, a clear example of council run-down if ever there was, but still a fantastic place.

    This years's 'Best Building in Sweden', seen from my window is an awful, plastic white elephant built on a demolished, rather wonderful wooden building that was also a 'heritage asset'. Developers won the day.

    Stephen Duncombe's book "Dream: Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy" has some excellent suggestions for how progressives can propose, rather than getting stuck, as we do now, in only reacting to the plans of others.

  4. Public Interest25 March 2015 at 05:25

    The main group involved is Hallamshire Historic Buildings. They are lloking to set up a donation process soon, keep an eye on their twitter @HHBuildings and this blog for more information in the near future

  5. I think that the turnout yesterday in support of the existing buildings shows that Sheffield is up for the challenge.
    The Desvonshire Quarter Action Plan was drawn up less than 20years ago which is not a long time in terms of city developments and they were drawn up at a time when it was clear that big changes in the city centre we about to happen.
    It was clear yesterday the it is the attitude of the planning and transport committee that is out of date in the way that they can ignore the voices of 20,000 modern and socially aware protesters who see clear benefits in preserving a little bit of the city's heritage