Sheffield council votes to demolish independents on Devonshire Street

Independents on Devonshire Street

Independents like Rare and Racy and Syd & Mallory on Devonshire Street face demolition

Sheffield City Council have approved controversial plans to demolish a row of shops on Devonshire Street despite hundreds of protesters and a 20,756-signature petition against the scheme.

The decision to approve the planning proposals by Coda Planning Ltd was made on Tuesday, whilst hundreds of protesters gathered outside Sheffield Town Hall chanting “Save Devonshire Street”.

Landmark independents such as Rare and Racy, who have been selling books, music and prints on Devonshire Street since 1969, will be demolished and replaced by apartments, cafes and restaurants.

The campaign to save the Devonshire Quarter, known for the unique, independent businesses that have characterised the area for a number of years, has been backed by Sheffield MP’s and bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Drenge.

Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders tweeted in October 2014:

You can’t let em knock down these shops! Classic, independent businesses in Sheffield.

Independents who will also be affected by the council decision are vintage clothes emporium Syd & Mallory, Rag Parade vintage shop and the Natural Bed Company.

Documenting the protest

Sheffield Hallam journalism students Liam O’Neill, Will Hartley and Logan Macleod, who call themselves The Three Docuteers, were on the scene to document the protest and council decision.

Liam explains what happened at the protest and how they they were able to get into the room where councillors were voting and interview those who made the decision to demolish Devonshire Street.

We found ourselves surrounded by individuals united by one goal; to have their voice heard and to prevent a historic building, just a few minutes walk away, from being demolished.

We came unwittingly close to becoming part of the protest movement ourselves and the sense of anticipation and nerves amongst the campaigners was almost contagious.

Protestors told us of the positive impact the independent shops on Devonshire Street have had on their lives:

[Independents] like Rare and Racy are absolutely critical for incubating new art. To keep an art scene alive you have to have constant input and new ideas and you need somewhere where they can ferment, [like in] places like this.

In a rush of frustration, a member of the town hall security scuffled with one protester as he attempted to enter the critical council meeting where the fate of Devonshire Street lay.

Outside, the chants of unrelenting voices could be heard loud and clear by the 150 or so members of the public assembled inside an upstairs room filled with grand architecture and decadent paintings.

A long and arduous meeting containing cheering, jeering and statements by both sides of the argument ended with a crushing blow to the cluster of protestors outside – a vote was passed in favour of the Devonshire Street buildings being demolished.

After the decision was made we interviewed three Labour councillors who explained their frustration at the decision, despite having just voted in favour of the demolition moments earlier.

They told us that if they had voted against the planning proposals, Coda Planning Ltd, who made the application, would eventually succeed with their plans by appealing to central government.

The councillors argued that if they had rejected the planning application and forced Coda to go to Whitehall they would have faced “huge legal bills”.

Full documentary out soon

Look out for the release of The Three Docuteers‘ full documentary next week, which captures the raw emotions of those affected by the council’s decision; a shop worker describes the passion he has for his products and a customer describes the underlying impact he believes losing the shops has on society.

As they endeavour to provide a balanced story The Three Docuteers discover that the Sheffield community is appalled by the few in power who are viewed as ‘evil’ and ‘spineless’.

The planning company is left besieged by angered and heartbroken campaigners whose fight to save a site of strong cultural heritage and importance continues.

Read our previous article about the threat to the Devonshire Quarter here.

Sheffield Unchained readers can see the petition here.