I live in South West Sheffield and am very attached to its tree-lined streets. I also use the central library and visit the Graves Art Gallery. I would ideally like Sheffield to keep all its healthy trees and to renovate and remodel its central library and art gallery.
These things however need money and the city council, thanks to progressive cuts in central government support, is desperately underfunded.
No doubt engineering solutions could save many of the healthy trees we are losing – but engineering solutions are an expense. Equally the council could retain the Graves building if it paid up – but at the cost of what other services?
We who live in the South West are disproportionately from the comfortably-off middle-class. The cuts in the council’s services are felt disproportionately in other parts of the city which are predominantly working class and where there are, incidentally, fewer or no trees lining the streets. It would be heartening if the outrage and effort aimed at supporting our trees and the Graves building were matched by an equal campaign against cuts in programmes which benefit the struggling.
Looking specifically at the Graves building I think our main concern should be not to retain it as it is but whether and how it will be adequately replaced. The art gallery has always been in the wrong place, hidden away up daunting stairs and served by inadequate lifts. The building’s public toilet facilities, likewise hidden away, are minimal. Bringing the gallery downstairs is a good idea. If the library must leave the building the main consideration is finding an immediate equivalent with a genuinely central location – perhaps the old Manpower Services Commission building at the bottom of the Moor, an area attracting an increased footfall thanks to the Market and other shops now opening.
The Graves building exists of course because Alderman Graves was prepared to put his hand in his pocket. Perhaps an answer to the possible loss of our trees and our library facilities would be for us to do likewise. If either the tree or library campaigners care to start fundraising I will happily contribute. I will not however contribute to efforts to save the Graves building itself for wholly public use – the money needs to go into facilities not fabric.