Planning chief visits stuck sites to see success for himself

One of the most influential people in UK planning has paid a personal visit to Sheffield to praise a programme that unlocks neglected sites for development.

John Acres, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), visited the city to see the council’s Stuck Sites programme for himself.

Using special powers, the council’s planning team has unlocked sites for development including Lion Works, the Ebenezer Chapel in Kelham and Mowbray Works.

All three privately-owned buildings, and many others, have needed substantial interventions from the council’s planning team to make them fit for development as housing and businesses.

The subsequent renovation of the buildings, which include a run-down former Methodist chapel, a derelict working man’s club and a grade two listed industrial works,  has led to nearly 800 homes being built across the city and reduced anti-social behaviour.

Mr Acres, who heads up the UK’s leading planning body with more than 25,000 members, said: “Through its “stuck sites” programme, Sheffield Council has transformed derelict inner city sites to provide vital new homes for communities.

“The Council’s strategic use of enforcement powers demonstrates what planning can achieve through existing powers and planning professionals’ own tenacity and skill.”

His visit comes after the council won the RTPI Yorkshire Planning Excellence Award 2017 for its work on the programme.

Councillor Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Development at SCC, said:

“It was great to welcome John Acres to our city to see the excellent work we are doing to unlock these sites and give them some much needed love and affection.

“Our city has some tremendous buildings and inevitably a few do fall into disrepair. This scheme gives our planning officers power to intervene in privately-owned properties and get them into a condition where they can be transformed and help contribute to the stronger, fairer and more prosperous communities I am determined we will build.

“Ebenezer Chapel is a fine example. Once dilapidated and dated, it’s now one of the most distinctive and desirable buildings in Kelham Island.”

The former Ebenezer Chapel in Shalesmoor has been transformed from a derelict shell into 11 occupied apartments in the Kelham Island Conservation area.

Council planners served a S215 Notice requiring the building to be re-roofed and made wind and watertight, before working with the owners on a new scheme which they completed following advice from the team.

The team also worked at the site of the former Foundry Working Men’s Club in Richmond Park, which had become a target for anti-social behaviour, vandalism and arson after its closure.

The site sits on the edge of an established neighbourhood, with residents close by, so removing the problems have had a huge, positive impact on the quality of life in the area.

After demolishing burnt-out buildings on the site and re-landscaping, planning enforcement officers are working with the owners and other interested parties to bring the site forward for housing.

A third scheme which caught judges’ attention was work to transform the former Lion Works on Spital Hill in Sheffield.

Lion Works is a grade two listed building in a prominent, skyline position overlooking the city centre, which was holding back the regeneration of the Spital Hill area and giving rise to numerous complaints.

With New Homes Bonus backing, the Council carried out major re-roofing, internal bracing and associated works, which were necessary to make the building wind and watertight, in default of the Section 215 Notice.