Residents in the city centre have branded the University of Sheffield “thoughtless” and a “bad neighbour” as the foundations are laid on its new multi-million pound ‘master plan’.
The four-storey Social Sciences building, under construction on Northumberland Road, sits at the forefront of the University’s five year-plan to expand and has been heralded as a sign of ‘uniting’ with the local community.
But Forge Press can reveal widespread anger among neighbours of the new building, with some wanting to move out after the university’s “disregard” for their concerns.
“We’ve just been getting together as residents and crying about it actually,” said Coleen Penny, 79, who has lived in the area for almost four decades.
“the old people’s home residents are very upset. It’s a destruction of their quality of life”
“I don’t think they give a damn about us, I think they want to do their own thing. I think the University just empire build.”
‘Considerable ill-feeling’ towards University
Designed as a ‘hub’ for thousands of students and academics from various disciplines, the flagship Social Sciences structure is set for completion in 2021, with contractors beginning work on the site at the end of April.
The site of the new-build has until recently been shielded with a nature corridor that left the gardens of Marlborough Road residents feeling akin to a rural abyss.
But the worst fears of local residents have been realised this week as, after months of uncertainty, mature trees bordering the patch fell victim to the saw.
“No one of us could have anticipated how horrible and brutal it’s going to be over the next two years,” said Mary Peace, 52, of Marlborough Road.
Despite the institution insisting that it replants two trees for each it fells, saplings make up little for the impact on privacy, residents say, and the noise of a two-year construction period, described as “apocalyptic” by one neighbour.
Ms Peace also criticised the University’s “thoughtless” treatment of those in an old people’s home bordering the project, where her 87 year-old mum lives, and is considering challenging the institution for compensation.
“They’re all very upset,” she said. “My mum got a room to have a quiet outlook on green space but this is a complete destruction of her quality of life.”
Dr Jonathan Crook, her neighbour, 48, agreed: “[The University] made the right noises but they’ve failed to provide clear assurances and that has an impact on us about whether we are going to stay or move.
“It’s inevitably resulted in considerable ill feeling towards the project and the University generally.”
University says it’s listening – residents disagree
The Broomhill neighbourhood action group was formed in 2013 as the planning process began, and have been vocal at the University’s ongoing consultation sessions.
But Ann Kent, one of its ringleaders, felt that the meetings have been simply a tick boxing exercise. “They’ve not taken a single blind bit of notice of us,” she said.
“The University is allowed to do what it wants. They make lip service to being a good neighbour but they aren’t.”
Many neighbours called for the University to start taking “more care” of them, but worried that it is “after the fact” now that construction has begun.
Several also questioned the safety implications of the project with a series of complex junctions in the area, the design, described by one as “like a spaceship has landed”, and challenged the University over the benefit it will bring to the city.
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Keith Lilley, Director of Infrastructure at the University of Sheffield, insisted that only the site chosen was suitable for the Social Sciences building, which he says has the environment and local community at its heart.
He added: “The University makes a significant contribution to the local and regional economy, as well as to the vibrancy of the city, and to continue to do that requires us to invest in our estate.
“We have notified residents personally about opportunities for feedback on this project and we will continue to engage with local organisations and residents as construction gets under way.
“We continue to work with the City Council to address the changing needs of pedestrians and cyclists in the area to ensure safety.”