Sheffield planning committee rejects changes proposed by architect on £40m scheme

The future of a half-built tower in Sheffield is “on a knife-edge” after the city council turned down proposed design changes.

The 30-storey St Paul’s scheme by City Lofts (Sheffield), for which 300 workers are already on site, is central to the regeneration of the city. However, design changes proposed by the architect to remedy construction problems have been vetoed for a second time by the council.

Tim Bowder-Ridger, project director for architect Conran & Partners, said the issue had to be resolved “within weeks” or work on the £40m project would have to stop. He said: “The project is at serious risk of grinding to a halt and not starting again. Everything’s on a knife-edge.”

Bowder-Ridger said the scheme’s backer, Hypo Real Estate Bank, was still willing to fund the project, despite the credit crunch, but could put it on hold if permission was not granted.

He said: “The cost of starting again is enormous. The frame and podded elements we have already installed will deteriorate in months if not made weatherproof.”

The scheme is independent of the parent company of the developer, City Lofts, which was placed in administration in the summer.

The decision to turn down the changes came despite planning officer recommendations in favour of letting them through. Bowder-Ridger denied the changes had been made to “dumb down” the design because of funding pressures, insisting they were to address a technical problem with the balconies. Construction is being carried out by Shepherd Construction. The frame has been built up to 27 storeys, and cladding and glazing is complete on the lower floors.

David Baker, deputy leader of the council, said: “We cannot and will not allow corners to be cut in the regeneration of our city.”