Botanic Garden on the Tapton Experimental Gardens now we need direct action.

COUNCILLORS have reluctantly approved long-disputed plans for a large housing development on a former Sheffield University halls of residence site.

Miller Homes’ plan to build 120 homes on the site of Tapton Hall, between the leafy suburbs of Broomhill and Crookes, was thrown out by Sheffield councillors when it was first submitted three years ago.

The Government’s planning inspector backed the decision at an appeal in June 2008 – but crucially only focused his objection on a small part of the scheme which has now been altered.

At a stormy meeting of Sheffield Council’s city centre south and east planning board residents queued up to state their opposition to the scheme for the site between Crookes Road and Taptonville Road.

Most objected to the loss of a unique Victorian walled garden in the heart of the £14 million site.

Geoff Marston, who has lived in the area for 50 years, said: “This development is a smack in the eye for the people of Broomhill. For the last five years we have been trodden on by the university, with the development in Endcliffe and now this.”

Kathy Loizou, whose Crookes Road home borders the site, complained the proposed buildings would overlook and overshadow her house. She said: “These properties will probably be bought as buy-to-lets – we don’t want that to be the legacy for our area.”

Others complained about the quality of the designs, the absence of affordable housing and the effect on neighbours’ amenity.

But Roland Bolton, speaking for Miller Homes, said: “This is going to be one of the best developed sites in Sheffield. Thirty per cent of the site will be open space – three times the council’s requirement.”

Planning officer Trevor Sullivan told councilors refusing planning permission would be seen as “unreasonable” because the government inspector had backed most of the scheme.

The board approved the plans six votes to one.

Coun John Hesketh, chairing, said: “It is with a heavy heart that I vote for approval. I feel that if we refused there would be an immediate appeal which we would lose.”

He said backing the plan would enable councillors to get concessions for the community from Miller Homes.

Background

Pisgah House is a Grade II listed (will be saved see 09/03207/CAC) residence constructed in the 1820’s, tucked away in a quiet backwater (Pisgah House Road) at the top end of Hoole Rd. It is next door to the Etruria House Hotel, which is also a listed building. Pisgah House has a fine 2-story coach house which is itself a listed building.

To the rear garden of Pisgah House is part of the Botanic Garden on the Tapton Experimental Gardens site. It houses a significant portion of the plant collection. Now the Tapton site is to be redeveloped, whatever public open space remains on the site will adjoin Pisgah House’s garden.

This now approved and long-disputed plans for a large housing development on The former Sheffield University halls of residence site. Miller Homes’ plan to build 120 homes will see the demolition of existing student halls of residence, annex, associated building including temporary structures around experimental gardens and Nos. 26, 28 & 30 Taptonville Road.

What is it?

Founded in 1951, The Botanic Garden contains more than 2000 species of plants and has provided an experimental centre for Sheffield University’s department of plant sciences. The garden is established in grounds that form part of the historic landscape around Hallamgate House (built circa 1780, now demolished), Tapton Elms (now renamed Hadow House) and Pisgah House (the oldest listed residence still standing in Broomhill). The garden contains a number of built structures including a ha-ha, a Victorian walled ornamental garden and a pond, in addition to many fine mature trees. The University want to sell the site to developers who plan to demolish many of the existing structures and build a housing estate, along with a larger development on the site of the Tapton Halls of Residence on the adjoining land.

Where is it?

Main entrance is at number 26 Taptonville Road, towards the top end of Taptonville Road, but the garden also has a second entrance from Hoole Road to the rear. The total land area of the garden is around 1 hectare (2.5 acres). Few people in the community know about it because it has rarely been open to the public.

Why did people want save it?

It occupies such a sensitive site in the heart of our conservation area, and has importance as part of the historic landscape pre-dating (and contemporary with) the development of Broomhill.

It provides amenity for the surrounding houses, and an important habitat for birds, bats, rare newts and other wildlife, in addition to its unique plant collection.

Broomhill is desperately short of public green space and the loss of such a good potential public garden in the centre of our community would be a tragic missed opportunity.

Broomhill has suffered many detrimental changes to our local environment as a result of University expansion: surely the University could give something back by working with the community to conserve this garden?

The land in question was originally the garden of Tapton Elms, a fine house now owned by the University of Sheffield that was built by Alderman John Hobson and his wife Thyrza in 1853. Alderman Hobson and his wife had several children. Their second child, called Albert, who continued to live at Tapton Elms after his parents died, was awarded a knighthood around the turn of the century. He also served as Lord Mayor, Master Cutler and president of the Chamber of Commerce nationally and locally, and sat on the council of Sheffield University.

The general lay-out of the ‘Secret Garden’, as it is known , from old maps. There was an informal lawned area immediately in front of the house and a formal walled garden beyond that. Many of the original features of the walled garden still remain. The residents of Broomhall proposal, which was supported by the 1750 people who signed a petition, is to re-create the original gardens and open them as a small public park?.

This would showcase the time when Sheffield was becoming one of the industrial powerhouses of the world and some of the foundations for the city we have today were laid. Among the legacies of that time are the houses and gardens built by successful businessmen (in the days before Ferraris and helicopters), at least partly to show off their wealth. Re-creating the gardens The residents of Broomhall propose would place Tapton Elms once again in its original garden setting. It is proposed that the house itself should be converted into apartments, and The residents of Broomhall have no objection to that.

John Hobson, who might he be then?

John Hobson was in fact responsible for the development of much of Taptonville Road, where these gardens are situated, and it was the view up the road that prompted John Betjeman to describe Broomhill as ‘the prettiest suburb in England’ back in the 1960s.

Is this over?

Of course not and here is not to talk about the next stage of direct action, but it will happen. We need to make sure that Sheffield University feel the cost of trespassing over the people of Broomhill and the surrounding area, they should understand their role is to provide and give education. In the last 20 years it has become about profit gain, we need to take direct action to make them aware of the feelings of this community and likewise send a warning to Sheffield Hallam University and their plans for Collegiate Crescent .

There is a need for housing, we would not disagree on this fact, but do we need to build more, when there are thousands of empties in Sheffield, is it not time we began to look at letting them on cheap rent, the empty space over shops and the many empty office space in Sheffield, lets look towards a more sustainable housing solution. At a time when this current government are looking towards cutting Housing Benefits, the housing crisis stands to become worse not better. As anarchist and former Squatters , we very much understand the need for direct action.

The saving of Pisgah House along with getting Miller Homes to rethink, change their plans is not a victory, what would have been one is the saving of Tapton Gardens and the refurbishment of Tapton Hall into affordable single person housing, moving on people from the many homes in multiple occupation, and turning them back to family homes. With more thought it would be understood there is no need to for the crass building program of new homes.

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