Letter: Sheffield needs a heritage strategy

This letter sent to the Star was written by Valerie Bayliss, Joined Up Heritage Sheffield, (S11)

Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 2:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 7:57 am
A CGI showing how homes being built on the Hoyle Street site in Sheffield, where a listed steel-making furnace still stands, will look

The Star has carried several articles lately that focus on problems about heritage assets. Thus on Tuesday you had articles dealing with concerns about the setting of the hugely important Hoyle Street cementation furnace, a scheduled ancient monument, and about the dreadful state of the graveyard at Loxley Chapel, itself a Grade 2* listed building – meaning it is a particularly important building of more than special interest. I say ‘is’, but it is now literally a shadow of its former self following an apparently deliberate fire a couple of years ago.

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You’ve also reported that developers planning a 30 storey block on Castle Square, next door to one listed building and directly opposite another, have been told that it would have no significant effects on any kind of heritage assets in its vicinity. We’ve seen attempts to build over or alongside the archaeologically significant remains of the Roman Ridge and in the process damage the setting of the scheduled Wincobank hill fort, as well as eroding scarce open space. The city’s Crimean Memorial, paid for by public subscription, languishes in pieces in a Council store, will we do the same, in a couple of decades’ time, with the Women of Steel memorial? Intangible heritage is barely recognised as such. And cases of building proposals that will impact negatively on the natural environment, or on the appearance of treasured areas in the city, are legion.

Of course there has to be development in any community. Old buildings wear out or are no longer fit for modern purposes. There is a desperate need for more housing. Not all old buildings are good or need to be preserved. We need the best of the new as well as the old. No-one pretends that balancing current needs and the desirability of conservation is easy, and we should recognise the pressures on the Council staff and elected members who have to do just that. But the cases I’ve mentioned are being looked at individually and without any real sense that the city truly understands and appreciates the value of the heritage assets it has, how they can best be secured and enhanced and how the whole community can get together to ensure we maintain the best of our heritage. We need to be able to use it, as too much is not being used at the moment, for the benefit of all of us: for example, to help attract visitors to the city, to support efforts to get additional funding into Sheffield, to encourage community cohesion, to structure future heritage policies in both the public and private sectors. In short, Sheffield lacks a heritage strategy. Towns and cities that have such strategies have reaped significant benefits. It’s time we did the same.

Joined Up Heritage Sheffield, a registered charity, is addressing this issue. In 2017 we published a Framework for a heritage strategy, a document that emerged from widespread community consultation. Now we’re ready to complete the project, working towards publishing a Heritage Strategy and Action Plan for the city by next spring. Again we want to make sure that everyone who would like to contribute their ideas can do so; this strategy has to be built from within the community, or it will be nothing. We are starting with 3 half-day open workshops, at the Friends’ Meeting House in St James’s Street in the city centre. They are on Sat 19 October at 10.30, Weds 23 October at 1.15 and Tues 29 October at 1.15. The workshops are open to all and free to attend; registration is via Eventbrite. If that isn’t available to you, do email me at [email protected] – you can also put in your ideas that way if you can’t get along, or do so on our Facebook page. But we hope you will come along and have your say on this important project.