Letter: Scandalous threat to conservation areas
This letter sent to the Star was written by Howard Greaves, Chairman, Hallamshire Historic Buildings, (S7)
The Council's ill-defined and ill-conceived proposal to carry out a review of every one of Sheffield's 38 Conservation Areas should be of huge concern to us all. Other local authorities are planning to expand their heritage protection, but Sheffield City Council wants to roll back even the limited protections that we have. They claim to want to ensure that Conservation Areas are "not acting as a brake on development", which shows a staggering lack of understanding both of the contribution that heritage makes to a modern economy and of the law governing Conservation Areas.
The Council has a statutory duty to identify areas of special architectural or historic interest which it is desirable to preserve or enhance, and by law must then designate these. Many existing Conservation Areas do not have an up to date appraisal or any management plan, and some are not even listed on the Council's website. The Council complains that austerity makes it difficult to find resources for even its everyday tasks. If they have somehow found some spare manpower for a review of Conservation Areas, this would be better spent meeting the legal requirement to maintain documentation and looking for additional areas to designate, but I'm not holding my breath.
Then there are the farcical circumstances of the last-minute cancellation of the Castlegate consultation and the doomed and damaged Old Coroner's Court. Research shows that historic buildings boost the economy and that heritage protections such as Conservation Areas are popular with the public and do not impede development, but when was that ever allowed to guide Council policy? Instead, they prefer to look for excuses to remove protection, a scandalous waste of time and effort that will do untold harm to the city's character and damage its future prosperity.