Nottingham’s Civic Society is calling on the council to stop giving planning approval to tall buildings which it fears overshadow the city’s history.
Ian Wells, vice chairman of the society, said there was “a real danger” the city could lose its landmarks in favour of post-Covid economic development.
Recent concerns involve the building of a nine-storey new School of Art and Design on Shakespeare Street, which the society believes will wreck the character of the area.
This includes the Grade II listed buildings close by, such as the former Synagogue, which is now University Hall, and the former Registry Office, as well as the Victorian street scene.
However, one councillor sitting on the planning committee and in favour of the development, Cllr Toby Neal (Lab), said the future of cities like Nottingham was building upwards and the council is “going to have to take that onboard”.
And the council’s portfolio holder for planning also said the authority was committed to preserving the character of the city.
The society has also raised concerns about the demolition of the former Royal Mail sorting office in Bath Street for a 13-storey student development.
They warned the development would overshadow the public open space in St Mary’s Rest Garden and the Bendigo monument, which celebrates Nottingham’s 19th century bare-knuckle boxing champion, Bendigo Thompson.
There were also concerns that the building’s height should be reduced to preserve the character and appearance of Sneinton’s conservation area.
Both planning applications were passed despite the society’s concerns.
Mr Wells said: “It is very frustrating sometimes. Every city has got to maintain its economic development (post-Covid) and that is what is driving this at the moment. We want to attract people to Nottingham, and they think new buildings are the answer.
“There are too many tall buildings that overshadow our history. What is Nottingham? What is that characteristic? It is historic low-rise buildings because this was a Victorian city.
“We want to attract tourists and the danger is we are losing the landmarks. The fear is we will look like every other city as these historic buildings are overshadowed by huge new developments.
“We would like to see less high-rise buildings. It has become an obsession now. The conservation areas are compromised, and these are oasis’ that need to be preserved.
“We will keep on fighting. Like every campaign group it will take time.”
Cllr Linda Woodings (Lab), Portfolio Holder for Housing, Planning and Heritage at Nottingham City Council, said: “We do understand the civic society’s concerns around retention of Nottingham’s wonderful history and architecture – we share their desire to protect this important heritage.
“Indeed, we’ve created restoration schemes and successfully bid for grants to help property owners renovate in areas like Carrington Street.
“Plans for new developments are assessed on their individual merits and subject to strict local and national planning policies. These allow officers and councillors to decide fairly on applications we receive, taking into account the local context.
“However, there could never be a blanket approach to determining applications because we need to consider all the relevant circumstances, including impact on heritage assets and wider benefits of a proposed scheme.
“The Local Plan includes policies to protect our heritage and it ensures excellent design of new development. Specific guidance on building heights is available to applicants in the Nottingham City Centre Urban Design Guide and in Supplementary Planning Documents for particular sites and areas.”