"How the old place has changed"

The following cutting is from the Sheffield Daily Independent dated 31st December 1931

"Sheffield has been criticized on many sides for its lack of architectural beauty."  - the words of 1931 still ring true today which to my mind is an searing indictment of how the city has been administered over the last hundred years. Sheffield's location is second to none in my opinion but its buildings leave a lot to be desired. The City Hall and the Central Library and Art Gallery are magnificent buildings and symbolic of their age: they do have "dignity and beauty". I still believe that they have dignity and beauty today but both buildings have had major problems over the last two decades. Both come under the auspices of Sheffield City Council who seem to be under severe financial pressures year after year. The cost of actually running these buildings is enormous and there is very little if anything left for their maintenance and upkeep. In fact in 2016 plans were put forward by the council to sell the library to a Chinese consortium and convert it into a five star hotel - Sheffield to date does not possess one. Fierce opposition to the proposals ensued and at the time of writing nothing has come of  the plan. But the warning signs are there for all to see.

As for Sheffield City Hall this report appeared in the Sheffield Star dated 15th Mar 2022

Sheffield City Halland other council-owned leisure and entertainment venues face an uncertain future after the trust running them announced it is handing back control. Sheffield City Trust, which manages 17 venues across the region including Ponds Forge, Sheffield Arena and the English Institute of Sport, narrowly avoided bankruptcy today after receiving a £7m bailout from the council. The not-for-profit organisation – formerly known as Sheffield International Venues – will now provisionally hand over control to the city council in August 2024. It comes after years of financial struggles at the trust, in which time it has kept afloat with millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money."

Sheffield has a particularly poor reputation with regard to the preservation of buildings - one only has to look at the sorry saga relating to Sheffield's Old Town Hall in Waingate These two reports are from the Sheffield Star

The Old Town Hall Waingate Sheffield - A Grade 11 listed building

7 July 2022

Friends of the Old Town Hall are growing increasingly concerned about the state of the building under its new owner - including this large broken window. Mr Ata and Sheffield City Counil were approached for comment. Mr Ata also owns several apartment blocks in the city and has faced complaints and prosecutions over managing them. The city council has received £15,760,894 from government to restore the former Sheffield Castle site on Waingate.

Chair Valerie Bayliss said they wrote to Gary Ata, of Noble Design and Build, in March but heard nothing. Mr Ata snapped up the Grade II listed Old Town Hall on Waingate in December and registered it under a new firm The Courthouse Apartments (Sheffield) Ltd.

Ms Bayliss said: “This window has, unfortunately, been broken for some time and we in Friends of the Old Town Hall are as concerned about the state of the building as we have been since the Friends were set up in 2014, if not more so. We know that people have been in the building – we were sent, anonymously, some rather poor quality video dated March 2022.

We forwarded the link to the city council. I believe they have made contact with Mr. Ata but on precisely what, and to what effect, we don’t know.“The Friends wrote to him on March 7 to ask for a meeting and offering to share with him our knowledge of the building, but have had no response, not even an acknowledgement. As far as we can tell he has not previously taken on a listed building badly in need of sympathetic restoration and which will require very heavy investment after 25 years of decay.”

8th December 2022

The owner of the Old Town Hall in Sheffield has been urged to ‘get a move on’ a year after buying the building. Valerie Bayliss, chair of the Friends of the Old Town Hall, urged Gary Ata to show he was serious about restoring the ‘great old listed building which has been neglected for too long’. Built in 1808, it has been disused for 25 years. She spoke out a year after Mr. Ata snapped up the site on Waingate for £600,000. He registered a company called The Courthouse Apartments (Sheffield) Ltd and took out two loans which were repaid on November 28 this year. But no repair or restoration work appear to have taken place. There are concerns theft of lead flashing has allowed water into the building. A photo, taken in March, shows a floor in one room has been removed.

Ms Bayliss said: “In its current state it’s likely to be a drag on the city council’s plans to regenerate Castlegate; it will probably deter other potential investors; and we know its condition is getting worse. We hope the city council is monitoring the situation closely." Mr Ata and Sheffield City Counil were approached for comment. Mr Ata also owns several apartment blocks in the city and has faced complaints and prosecutions over managing them. The city council has received £15,760,894 from government to restore the former Sheffield Castle site on Waingate".

And so it appears that one of Sheffield's Grade 2 listed buildings is at the mercy of a certain Mr. Gary Ata, of Noble Design and Build and The Courthouse Apartments (Sheffield) Ltd. I fear for its future.

The paragraph about the new shopping centre to replace the old Fitzalan Market Hall is equally interesting because in December 2020 plans were announced to demolish the new shopping centre (the C&A Modes and Primark building) and replace it with a 39 story skyscraper Kings Tower with 206 apartments. According to Sheffield City Council it is just what the Castlegate area of Sheffield needs - I beg to differ.

The other two points of note from the article is firstly the philanthropic endeavours of Frank Crawshaw who presented the city with the magnificent Beauchief Abbey and secondly, the building of a municipal aerodrome at Coal Aston. I must admit that I had a wry smile after reading this paragraph. Sheffield did not get its municipal aerodrome for another 66 years, and when it did it was at Tinsley Park and not Coal Aston. Sheffield City Airport opened in 1997 and only lasted five years before closing in 2002. It was even by Sheffield City Council's standards a shambles and a fiasco. There is an article n Wikipedia that conveys it short and rather sad history. The lesson to be learnt is that Sheffield City Council should never again involve themselves in aviation matters. And Peel Airports who purchased the land in 2002 were the company that started Robin Hood Airport (Sheffield/Doncaster) in the same year. That airport suffered the same fate as Sheffield City Airport  - it closed in October 2022 after just 20 years of operations. Talks about its future are ongoing at the time of writing.   


Sheffield Daily Independent dated 31st December 1931

Sheffield Star dated 15th Mar 2022  - 7th July 2022 - 8th December 2022

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This page was last updated on 20/12/22 14:07