Sheffield’s rich heritage now has a dedicated voice on the city council.
The authority has chosen Coun Ian Saunders as its new heritage champion – and the ward member for Beighton plans to speak to as many of Sheffield’s heritage groups as possible and help form a strategy for the city.
“I pushed to get the job because I’m Sheffield born and bred, I’m proud of Sheffield and I want to see it’s heritage flourish,” said Coun Saunders.
The council already has champions for issues such as sexual health. The idea for a heritage champion came from the Joined Up Heritage conference in April – the first step in bringing the city’s various groups together – and the council was keen to help.
Coun Saunders said: “My role is to be the spokesperson for the council in heritage issues generally. To liaise with various groups. We very much want a heritage strategy, which we are working on.
“We are also looking at having a heritage officer who can then do the co-ordination.”
Coun Saunders has previously worked in licensing and planning, in part as a cabinet adviser to deputy leader Leigh Bramall, so is well placed in his new role.
“Licensing and planning are two departments that affect heritage the most,” he said.
“It’s not so much about shouting about it for the council. I’m happy to meet with all the groups. I’ve got a long list of people to talk to.
“I particularly like the idea of the Joined Up Heritage umbrella group. How that will develop is up to them. It’s all about working in partnership.
“Now there is a point of contact for them. I know the Town Hall corridors and who to contact about whatever.”
Coun Saunders does not want to put all his focus on the bigger heritage projects, such as Sheffield Castle.
He has already mentioned the future of smaller buildings such as Leah’s Yard, a little mester’s workshop in the middle of the planned retail quarter, and raised concerns at a heritage roundtable hosted by The Star last month.
But there are some projects upon which the council can have direct influence, such as the Old Town Hall in Waingate, which has fallen into disrepair.
“We’re not going to let it go to rack and ruin,” he said. “It’s number one on the council’s priorities in terms of buildings.
“We will do something. It’s just a question of working through the process and finding the money.”
Coun Saunders admits there is a lot of work to be done in his new role, but is relishing the challenge.
“It’s a long term role,” he said. “The initial ambition is to work with all the groups, to produce some sort of strategy.
“There’s a massive amount of goodwill. I want to work with the groups to draw it up so they are there in the beginning.
“It needs to be simple to read and understand, and cover all the main areas and all the main buildings.
“But heritage is not just listed buildings. It’s interests, people. It’s about what we are building now. Most buildings now are only built for 30 or 40 years. We are trying to get new buildings that are built for the future.”