Wednesday 22 May 2024
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Demolition of townhouses to build nine-storey Nottingham Trent University art school approved

Controversial plans to build a nine-storey new School of Art and Design in the heart of the city centre divided councillors.

Councillors met at a Nottingham City Council planning committee on Wednesday, October 20, to discuss the application.

Nottingham Trent University wants to demolish three nineteenth century townhouses and build the new school on the junction of Shakespeare Street with North and South Sherwood Street.

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Major concerns have been aired by both Nottingham Civic Society and Historic England about the effect it will have on historic buildings close by.

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This includes damage to the character of the area and Grade II listed buildings, including the former Synagogue (University Hall) and the Grade II listed former Registry Office at 50 Shakespeare Street.

Cllr Graham Chapman (Lab), vice chair of the planning committee, described the top of the development as “shouty” and looking like “a foghorn.”

Cllr Wendy Smith (Lab) said it “dwarfed” residential properties and shared the concerns raised by people living in the area.

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The townhouses

Other councillors disagreed, with Cllr Toby Neal (Lab) saying he liked the “industrial and urban feel of it” and the future of cities like Nottingham was building upwards and the council is “going to have to take that onboard.”

The university says it will bring more than 100 jobs to the city and will become a school that will be acknowledged on the national and international stage.

The buildings due for demolition were in use as Nottingham’s YWCA, but more recently have been in various uses including a hostel, pharmacy, and student accommodation before being bought by the university in November 2018.

The buildings are currently vacant.

The new nine-storey building will bring together film, animation, gaming design, graphic design and illustration with a space to showcase students’ work.

Neighbours raised concerns about the development including its height and the effect it will have on the area.

Residents described is as “too tall”. The say it will affect residents of Matlock Court having “a reasonable quality of life.”

One resident described it as a “large, oppressive building that will also set a worrying precedent for future developments.”

Councillors broke into a lengthy debate on whether to accept the development on Wednesday, October 20.

Cllr Chapman said: “It has been forced onto a really tight site and turns its back on the residential area behind it and boxes buildings around it.

“The architects have spent all their energy on the inside – so externally is an afterthought. We are trying to make a decision on the basis of harm done  outweighed by public benefit, which is going to be jobs and education.

“The assumption is it is creating harm but is offset by something else. We should be aspiring for more than this – a building that does not create harm and attracts jobs. It is a step too far, this building.”

Cllr Smith added: “This application can  be summed up in three words – location, location, location. The effect this building will have on heritage and the context of the area – the buildings size is out of key with the area and dwarfing residential accommodation and the university’s own buildings.”

Cllr Neal said he disagreed with both councillors adding: “I don’t agree with a word of it. I think it represents something of an opportunity. It is something they (the school of art and design) have been striving for, for some years.

Cllr Pavlos Kotsonis (Lab) said it was a difficult decision and that he had sympathy with Historic England and Nottingham Civic Society.

He added: “It does replace historic buildings and does lead to a loss of the historic street scope.”

But he concluded: “I consider the benefits outweigh the concerns raised.”

Cllr Maria Joannou (Lab) said: “It is massive, and it is going to throw a shadow on all the other buildings.

Cllr Michael Edwards (Lab), chair of the committee, said a number of changes had been made to the application before it reached the committee.

He approved of the application and added: “It has got some ego behind it.”

Eight councillors voted in favour of the application while six voted against it. This meant planning permission was granted.

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