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Plans for 900 student homes in doubt as former Nottingham police and fire station given protected status

Proposals to demolish Nottingham’s former police and fire stations to make way for student flats have been withdrawn from a planning meeting after the building was given listed protection.

The bomb-proof building in Shakespeare Street was built between 1938 and 1940 and was used as a joint headquarters for the city’s police and fire departments.

The buildings were closed in 2016 and the police and fire station were relocated.

A developer’s new plans to demolish the now-vacant building, and build a 900-bed student scheme on the site, were recommended for approval by Nottingham City Council officers ahead of a formal decision being made by councillors on Wednesday, January 18.

But the council has now withdrawn the application from the meeting’s agenda.

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Conservationists argued against the development, saying the city’s history was “disappearing”.

Both Historic England and the Nottingham Civic Society objected to the plans, which were submitted by Derby-based developer Miller Birch Limited.

Screenshot 2023 01 13 at 13.51.17

However, on Thursday (January 12) the building was given Grade-II listed status by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

This means it is now subject to regulations which protect its historical and architectural significance, and alterations and building work cannot be carried out without written consent from the relevant authorities.

Ian Wells, of the Nottingham Civic Society, said: “Hopefully it will stop them demolishing it.

“We got the news this morning (January 13).

“It is very much part of Nottingham’s history. It is a great example of the part it played in defending Nottingham. It is part of Nottingham’s defence history from the Second World War.”

The former Nottingham City Central Police and Fire Station was designed by R M Finch OBE, a Nottingham City Engineer, who was assisted by Alexander Steele at the time.

Historic England, which advised the Government department on the listing, says despite the building’s apparent simplicity it is “skilfully composed with subtle detailing and occasional flourishes, including striking Art Deco corner entrance bays with ornamented doorways and emblematic carved figures”.

Under the plans, one block would be operated by Vita Student, with enough room for 512 studio flats, while a second apartment building would be operated by House of Social with room for a further 454 apartments.

The buildings would range in height from eight storeys to a maximum of 13 storeys, and the development would also feature a ground-floor public food hall at the corner of Shakespeare Street and North Church Street.

Further concerns had been raised over the impact on already Grade-II listed cave chambers beneath the site.

They are associated with the Grade-II listed Guildhall building in Burton Street, which is not part of the application.

The cave chambers have existed since the 1860s and under the plans, a single pile would be driven into a chamber as part of the development’s foundations.

A Historic England spokeswoman said: “We are pleased that the former police headquarters and central fire station in Nottingham have been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.

“Listing marks and celebrates this site’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system so it can be protected for the future.

“Historic England has already advised the City Council on plans for the redevelopment of this site, and is ready to advise various partners following the listing of the building at Grade II.

“The decision to list will bring clarity to the next steps for this building.”

In the existing planning report, it was stated that in the event that a decision is made to list the buildings before the S111 Agreement is completed and the planning permission is issued, it “will amount to a material change in circumstances such as to require the application to be brought back to Committee together with any associated listed building application”.

A Nottingham City Council spokesman added: “We have been informed that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has accepted Historic England’s recommendations that the former Central Police Station and Fire Station buildings should be given Grade II listed status.

“We will take stock of this decision before commenting.”

Miller Birch, which was behind the development of E.ON’s regional headquarters in Burton Street, said effort had been made to minimise the impact of the proposed development upon the cave system, including the relocation of a number of piles away from the cave chambers.

“Significant efforts” were also made to ensure that the scale, mass, and design of the proposed development would make a positive contribution to Shakespeare Street.

Miller Birch has been contacted for further comment following the decision to list the building.

•  Concerns for Nottingham’s historic caves as 900-bed student blocks tipped for approval

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