The following article comes from the online campaign page to save the University of Sheffield’s Edwardian Jessop Hospital Building.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage and The Victorian Society took this case to the High Court and then the Court of Appeal in order to prevent a dangerous precedent in the misinterpretation of the new National Planning Policy Framework (Paragraph 133).¬† They established that the public benefit achieved by demolition per se, needs to be considered, not just the overall ‘public benefit’ of a scheme.¬† We are quite certain that this particular question was not properly considered by Sheffield University or Sheffield Council.¬† English Heritage guidance states that “Grade II buildings are of special interest warranting every effort to preserve them”.¬† So far there has been no sincere effort to consider the public benefits of including the Grade II listed building in a new engineering building scheme and the option to keep the building was dismissed in six paragraphs of the University’s ‘Heritage Statement’, as it did¬† not meet the University’s ‘brief’.¬†¬†
Fa√ßade retention would have lost a mere 5% to 10% space, yet this option was considered too much of a compromise.¬†
The most eloquent letter of objection to the scheme was written by the planning officers involved in the application themselves.¬† This letter and other documents referenced here can all be viewed from the campaign website (www.jessophospital.org.uk).¬†
Months later, their views had not changed and three weeks before that planning meeting, the Council’s own Head of Urban design and Conservation advised the first author of the planning report:
“As you are all too aware my view (reflected by that of Conservation Advisory Group, the Design Panel and fellow officers) is that the proposals for Jessop east have both serious conservation implications and constitute poor design and should therefore be refused in accordance with the NPPF…¬† I’ve done my best to think of some positives but have come up with very little.”¬†
We now know that the draft City Development Plan, which had been adopted, contained a clause (unchallenged since 2010) which expressly forbade the University from harming the listed Jessop buildings or their settings, given the “economies of scale” offered to the University by the site. English Heritage had been involved in tightening up the wording of this clause.¬† This clause was silently removed by Sheffield City Council.
Some University representatives have spread misinformation about the building, denigrating its status as a worthless extension.¬† Yet this is in marked contrast to an independent historical report, commissioned by Sheffield University in 2008, which leaves no doubt about the architectural and historical merits of the building, reflected in its listing.¬†
The Jessop Women’s Hospital takes its name from a great Sheffield philanthropist.¬† Yet it is the architect, John Webster,¬† who designed both Victorian and Edwardian buildings, who is the unsung hero of this story. Webster devoted his life to charitable causes and his role was pivotal in the development of Sheffield hospitals, which had a strong influence on what was to become the National Health Service.¬† At the time that Jessop founded the women’s Hospital, Webster co-founded and was chair of committee of Sheffield Children’s Hospital, another great institution, at first located across the road from Jessops on Brook Hill.¬† When the Children’s Hospital moved to Western Bank, it was Webster who designed the new building.¬†¬† The Jessop’s Hospital for Women is how both of these figures will be remembered.¬† The two buildings, side by side, designed by the same notable architect 25 years apart and in different eras are a treasure which should be cherished and preserved together.¬† They would long outlive the new building which is being proposed.
Historic buildings have the power to connect us tangibly with our past.¬† This building should be protected to enable our children to value and learn from a time when a sense of progress and Civic duty, not simple profit,¬† was foremost in the minds of our nations’ prime movers.
This application began as an initiative to gain the University’s Engineering facility every possible advantage.¬† No one is against a New Engineering Building, but given all that has since come to light, we ask that the council of Sheffield University take the opportunity which is now available to urgently re-evaluate the demands of the original planning proposal.¬† With the University now one year ahead of schedule, and English Heritage still to be offered an opportunity to record the building (a statutory requirement) this is a vital chance to seize the initiative and avoid untold and unnecessary damage.
Click here¬†to sign the petition.