Council demolishes pub by mistake

Sheffield City Council has confessed that the company in charge of demolishing the Market Tavern was “instructed in error”.

A pub had existed on the site of the Market Tavern on Exchange Street since 1797, having last been rebuilt in 1914, when it was called the Rotherham House. In later life, according to the Sheffield branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), it was a Berni Inn, and later a Beefeater/Brewers Fayre under Whitbread. It closed in 2006 and would never reopen again.

A statement from the council, issued after it emerged that things hadn’t quite gone to plan, explained the background to the demolition: “While work was being carried out to remove asbestos from the building it was discovered that the building’s chimneys were structurally unstable making access to the neighbouring Mudford Building unsafe. While taking down the chimneys a further assessment of the former pub was carried out by Building Control and, unfortunately, the whole building was deemed unsafe and required full demolition.”

The council also revealed that last month, on 9 January, council members met with members of heritage groups, such as Hallamshire Historic Building Society, to discuss the demolition. A request from members of the society that a second opinion be considered prior to demolition was accepted, and it was agreed that the work of dismantling the historic building would be halted until 12pm on the following day, 10 January.

However, the statement from the council reveals that this was not adhered to, and the subsequent demolition work, unsurprisingly, caused further damage to the building: “Our initial belief was that the top turret on the building had collapsed under its own weight on the morning of 10 January. New information has since come to light which shows the demolition company were instructed in error at 11:53am to continue with demolition. As a result of this order, our understanding is the turrets fell because of the recommenced demolition works.”

Councillor Ben Miskell, who is the council’s Chair of Transport, Regeneration & Climate and also deputy leader of Sheffield Labour Councillors, commented: “The demolition of the Market Tavern wasn’t a decision we took lightly, however, given the condition of the building I am advised we were left with no choice.”

“As an organisation transparency is vital to us and we are sharing this update with our residents and stakeholders as soon as it has come to light,” he continued. “Throughout the process I have been keen that partners are kept fully informed. I am disappointed that this does not appear to have been the case and people have been provided with inaccurate information. We will be writing to partners to apologise and will be launching an internal investigation to understand exactly what went wrong.”

The demolition of pubs can resonate with the general public and spark outcry, as most clearly illustrated by the response to the destruction of the Crooked House, supposedly the UK’s wonkiest pub, last summer. While CAMRA has not yet issued a statement concerning the demolition of the Market Tavern, on 5 February, to mark the six month anniversary of the loss of the Crooked House, it called on the UK government to “commit to extra protections for pubs to avoid them being illegally converted or demolished”. One of the points the pressure group is pushing for, perhaps ironically given what happened with the Market Tavern, is “the ability for councils to force demolished locals to be rebuilt brick by brick”.

This article originally appeared on the drinks business.

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