Redevelopment of historic Sheffield mansion blocked by community activists

A Sheffield community group posed the threat of a judicial review against the council regarding the redevelopment of a historic property this week.

Tuesday’s Planning and Highways Committee meeting marked the third attempt by developers Edge AD to push through permission to redevelop Brincliffe Towers, a historic mansion and former old people’s home.

The Banner Cross Neighbourhood Group presented an impassioned case to the council’s Planning and Highways Committee against the proposals, claiming that the redevelopment would not sufficiently preserve the site’s heritage.

Susan Crowley, planning consultant for the group, said a sufficient ‘enabling’ case had not been made by the developers, and that if they approved the development, she would take the case to a judicial review.

An ‘enabling development’, as defined by Historic England, is a development that would be unacceptable in planning terms but would bring sufficient public benefits to justify it being carried out.

As a result of this legal obstacle, the meeting was adjourned by planning officer Michael Johnson, who was hesitant to proceed before any challenge was served to the council in writing.

Emma Sharpe, Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas for Historic England, was also brought in to provide evidence on behalf of the residents.

She expressed concern for the proposed new houses that Edge AD had planned to build alongside the old mansion.

She said: “The CGI illustrations that have been submitted illustrate the impact of the proposed new build houses on an area of the site which was historically gardens.

“We therefore consider the proposals would harm the character and appearance of the conservation area.”

Viv Lockwood, secretary of the Banner Cross Neighbourhood Group, said there had been talk that the application could resurface as soon as December, but suggested this would not be enough time to resolve his issues with the plans.

Mr Lockwood, 71, said: “There seem to be two very different arguments – one is that the current plans need only to be amended very slightly – a reduced height here, a different position there – to be satisfactory to the planning committee.

“But the counter argument is: that will not satisfy the regulation and the legal requirements that surround developments on heritage sites.”

Retired teacher Mr Lockwood said his primary objection to the development was that the scale and style of the proposed new houses did not complement the existing mansion.

The planned developments would sit on the land surrounding the existing property, but would dwarf it in scale.

He said: “Certainly, the mansion deserves to be brought back to something like the splendour it had before.

“So long as it becomes identifiably something like it was in its heyday, then that would be very well received.”

Mr Lockwood’s views were echoed by 67-year-old Colin Gregory, who lives next to the Brincliffe Towers site on Brincliffe Edge Road.

Mr Gregory, a retiree, said the developers should consider the option of converting the mansion into flats, rather than developing the surrounding area.

He said: “Green public space is at a premium in our cities.”

“We need housing, but the flat conversion option would provide the same amount of additional housing as the developer’s current plans.”