Plans for student flats opposed as residents fight to save villas

People living on the edge of Sheffield city centre have objected to plans to knock down a pair of Victorian villas in order to build a new block of student flats close to the city's busy inner ring road.

Urban Roots Planning has submitted proposals to build a three-storey block of 15 flats, to accommodate 53 university students, in Wilkinson Street.

The street, which is close to the junction of Glossop Road and the Upper Hanover Street stretch of the ring road, lies within the Hanover Conservation Area and most buildings in the neighbourhood date from the 19th century.

So far, 15 local residents and two councillors, as well as the central Sheffield branch of the Labour party, have written to Sheffield Council objecting to the proposals, which are described as "too big, poorly designed, unattractive and totally at odds with the character of the conservation area."

Coun Jillian Creasy said: "The row of terraces on Gell Street and Westminster Chambers are particularly unusual, beautiful and for the most part well-preserved. They really should have been listed long ago.

"This development will involve demolishing a pair of semi-detached houses and building on the substantial south-facing front garden.

"As such, it will destroy the line of houses on Wilkinson Street. It will spoil the view from the houses opposite. Above all, it will completely overshadow and overwhelm the terraces on Gell Street.

"In other words,this huge modern building, with clumsy attempts at a veneer of historical detail, will destroy the remaining layout of this historically interesting area."

Coun Creasy added that the area is already "saturated with houses in multiple occupation" and said: "The external appearance of the building is ugly. It is taller than it appears on the drawings.

"The rooms are tiny, there is minimal external amenity space and there is no parking space."

Another objector said: "The developer and consultants clearly have no idea of the damaging impact this development would have.

"It is not an exaggeration to say it would ruin the quality of life for Gell Street residents and destroy the unique character of our homes."

Other opponents to the scheme say that there is already too much student accommodation in the area, the proposals are an attempt at "garden grabbing" and there has been no consultation with locals.

Concerns have also been raised about the safety of the students who would live in the flats, because access would come from a narrow alleyway.

Coun Creasy said: "This is likely to attract anti-social behaviour, such as street drinking and drug taking, puts people at risk of burglary and means that neighbours are likely to be disturbed by residents coming in and out."

City planners have agreed with objectors that the proposed development is unsuitable at that site, and recommended that councillors refuse planning permission at a committee meeting on Monday, January 17.

In the report set to go before that meeting, planners say there is no need for parking spaces in an area so close to the city centre, but say the flats would increase the demand for on-street parking in the neighbourhood, creating a "detrimental impact on existing residents."

The planners say: "The loss of this pair of Victorian villas and the redevelopment as proposed would fail to preserve and enhance the character of the Hanover Conservation Area.

"The design of the proposed building is not considered acceptable in terms of its scale, bulk, general form, materials and significantly large footprint.

"It is considered that the proposed development will not provide adequate communal space to meet the needs of future occupants.

"Basic standards of daylight, privacy and outlook will not be achieved."