Sheffield’s Labour Leader, Councillor Terry Fox, has written to government asking for clarification on the recent Grade 2 listing of the former John Lewis Coles building.
Councillor Fox has also called for an urgent meeting of the Council’s cross-party Strategy and Resources committee to decide on the next steps.
The letter to government questions why this decision has been dropped on Sheffield with no consideration of local public opinion, and seemingly no consideration of the wider financial, economic, or environmental implications. Cllr Fox also states that he wants the voices of Sheffielders to be heard.
Whilst the recommendation to list the building was made by Heritage England the recommendation considered only supposed heritage factors, as is their remit. It was ultimately the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) who made the final decision, without consulting the residents of Sheffield.
A public consultation earlier on in the year as part of the City Centre Vision consultation garnered the opinion of over 1,500 people, and a majority supported the demolition of the John Lewis building, in Barker’s Pool, and replacing it with a smaller building and park.
The council has already gone out to the market, with many interested expressions of interests in developing the site, and Cllr Fox wants to see all options open for Sheffield.
Councillor Terry Fox:
“It is greatly disappointing that government have dropped this on Sheffield – and I know that residents are concerned that this decision will limit potential options for the site going forward.
“Whilst the Council can make an appeal to Heritage England – only 28 days are given to put this in and incredibly the only means of challenging are on factual inaccuracies. Given this strict criteria there is little hope of succeeding.
“This is why I am appealing direct to government – do the right thing and put this listing on hold until all the implications have been fully considered.
“I am not saying this site isn’t of some heritage value – and it may be that whatever comes next does indeed utilise the current building – but ultimately it should be for Sheffield to decide what best to do with the site. Not some official in Whitehall or Minister in Parliament
“Whilst the Listing does not mean that no alterations can be made to the building , in the majority of cases applications to make changes to a listed building are approved, it would pose challenges and make wholesale removal of the building near impossible
“We have had many expressions of interests in developing the site, and I think the people of Sheffield want to see all options considered. Instead, the government are limiting what may be achievable, and leaving Sheffield taxpayers with a potentially costly building.
“As well as appealing direct to government, I am working with our MPs to challenge this in parliament, and I’ve called for an urgent committee of cross-party councillors to determine our next steps”.
“Make no mistake, the government’s current decision could lead to the council picking up the costs here.
“At a time when public services are stretched, and residents are feeling the squeeze of a cost-of-living crisis, I am clear that this decision shouldn’t cost the Council and Sheffield residents a penny”.