FRIENDS OF THE OLD TOWN HALL
While the Friends of the Old Town Hall are pleased that the Old Town Hall is at last to be restored – something they have been campaigning for, and planning for, for 5 years now – they are disappointed that the Council failed to to take steps to ensure that at least part of the building retains its historic significance.
The City Council’s Highways and Planning Committee this afternoon approved plans submitted by Aestrom Ltd and Mr Efe Omu to bring this important historical building back to life. The Friends say that a major opportunity has been missed to ensure that part of the building will continue to be recognisable as a former court of law. ‘We asked the Committee to consider seriously retaining Court 1, the most important and ornate of the three major courtrooms, in recognisable form’, said Valerie Bayliss, chair of the Friends, who attended the Committee meeting. ‘The developer argued, with support from planning officers, that there is no viable use for the courtrooms other than as the living rooms of Aestrom’s planned serviced apartments. This involves removing most of what makes the courtroom legible as a former court. But there is an alternative’. FOTH received Heritage Lottery and other grants to commission professional business and architects’ plans for a financially sustainable alternative use, as well as an Architectural Heritage Fund grant to assess financial viability of these plans, so they know there are possibilities.
‘Moreover’, says Valerie Bayliss, Historic England which has responsibility for oversight of listed buildings like the Old Town Hall took a similar position. ‘It asked the Council to do what it could to make sure that the historic significance of the building was not just retained but enhanced. It is regrettable that the opportunity has ben lost’.
Now the decision has been taken, the Friends look forward to an early start on the process of bringing this significant building back into use. They will continue to monitor developments and hope that every possible step will be taken to respect the fabric of this highly important piece of Sheffield’s history and heritage.
Notes for Editors
1. FOTH was set up in November 2014 to campaign for the restoration of the Old
Town Hall which has been empty and neglected since 1995. It has about 350
registered supporters. Its two petitions to the previous owners attracted almost
4000 signatures each, a reflection of wide interest in the city and beyond.
2. FOTH has developed plans for phased restoration for mixed use, but a different
mix from Aestrom’s.
3. Enquiries to Valerie Bayliss on 0114 230 7693, or to firstname.lastname@example.org
17 December 2019