Launch of the 2018 Sheffield Design Awards

The Sheffield Civic Trust and Sheffield Society of Architects warmly invite you to the

Launch of the 2018 Sheffield Design Awards

to be held Thursday 10th May, 5.30pm at Sheffield Town Hall.

Register for your free ticket here

The launch will introduce the categories for this year’s awards, the entry and judging process, and give details of the awards ceremony, to be held in October. We are also pleased to announce the our

Guest Speaker – Rob Murfin, Chief Planning Officer of Sheffield City Council

We do hope that you will join us, beginning with a drinks reception at 5.30pm.

Sheffield Design Awards

The Sheffield Design Awards (SDAs) are a bi-annual event, with the awards ceremony to be held next in October 2018. The Sheffield Design Awards are a joint scheme of the Sheffield Civic Trust and the Sheffield Society of Architects and were established for the benefit of the public and City of Sheffield and its region, with the following objectives:

  1. To promote high standards of building and open spaces that have excellent architectural standards and make a substantial contribution to the local environment principally through the promotion of an Awards scheme.
  2. To educate and inform the local population in the qualities of good planning and architecture which respect the needs of the public, as well as the concerns of planners, developers and users of significant buildings and open spaces in the area of benefit.
  3. To encourage by publications, presentations and making awards the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in the area of benefit.

Awards are given to buildings and open spaces that have high architectural standards and make a substantial contribution to the local environment. The Awards are made after a shortlist of 12 nominated schemes is visited by a panel of invited judges and the Awards decided. The Award categories and winners in 2016 were:

  • Outstanding Project of the Year Award [Overall prize winner] Grey to Green
  • Conservation Award – 81 Slinn St. Walkley
  • Small Project Award – Foodhall
  • Contribution to Open Spaces Award – Grey to Green
  • Best Building Award – Blackburn Meadows
  • Housing / Residential Award – 81 Slinn St.
  • People’s Choice Award – Foodhall
  • Keith Hayman Award for cycling or public art – Women of Steel

Castlegate: Fairytale or Phoenix

Tuesday 20th March, saw the latest of the Sheffield Civic Trust public talks, with this one focusing on the future of the Castlegate area of Sheffield City Centre.

Over 70 people attended two illuminating and interesting presentations. The first from, Simon Ogden, Sheffield City Council’s Head of City Regeneration, on the latest progress of plans for the Castlegate area. The second was from Valerie Bayliss, of the Castlegate Preservation Trust and the Save Sheffield Old Town Hall campaign,  on the aspirations of the Castlegate Trust.

If you would like to see Simon’s presentation from the evening then please click HERE. Below are are summary of both presentations.

Harnessing the past for the future

Simon Ogden highlighted the draw of the Moor following the move of the market and other retail that had been located in the Castlegate area. Now the Castlegate area needs a new focus on what its function is. He rued the down-at-heel impression that visitors staying in hotels clustered there are currently experiencing.

 

He pointed to interesting elements of this area such as Victoria Quays Sheffield Canal Basin, so close, which as yet are still detached and segmented and by the old road layout, and which fail to fully attract the attention they deserve.

Not only is there potential to combine some cool canal heritage atmosphere with the sturdy Victorian and Edwardian heritage above the castle area, but also with proposals for the castle site. One exciting idea involves an elevated ramp above the castle site where people could watch archaeology happening. Current archaeological knowledge is largely reliant on the work of two amateur archaeologists working in the mid C20, Leslie Butcher and Albert Armstrong. The ambition is to undertake further archaeological investigations. You can find more details by clicking HERE.

There is  significant masonry under the ground of the castle site. Archaeological investigations will, in addition to adding knowledge, also tell us the story of Sheffield Castle, a narrative to engage both Sheffielders and visitors. 

Simon set out the aims of development for funding bids for the Castle site including:

  • Overcoming the failed Heritage Lottery Funding Bid for archaeological excavation, including a trench plan.
  • Uncovering the River Sheaf through the site and creation of a riverside  Pocket Park with improved River Stewardship.
  • Extending the Grey to Green Project along Castlegate and into the revamped Exchange Square area which can be reconfigured to work as event space. This is undergoing local consultation currently
  • Public involvement enhanced by ‘The Pier’ a raised viewing walkway over the site, to enable the public to view works from above. 

Of the wider Castlegate area Simon spoke of harnessing the past for the future and working with positive partnerships, such as the City Region Infrastructure Fund (SCRIF). Many of the old buildings are vacant or only occupied at ground floor level. These kinds of buildings could appeal to tech companies and creative industries who look for interesting office spaces. Certainly the plan is to bring new life to these old buildings as Sheffield Hallam University have done, making the old Post Office into the Sheffield Institute of Arts. And new life is under way with the conversion of the former toilets at Blonk St Bridge which will form the Two Rivers café; and Tamper cafés aim to create a Foodhall  in the area.  

The Old Town Hall

Valerie Bayliss’ talk was modulated and factual on a subject that is clearly close to her heart. It was all the more powerful for her measured delivery which remained in place even when she criticised the organisation of her fellow speaker, Sheffield City Council (SCC). Interested readers can go to the websites on the Old Town Hall: https://friendsofothsheffield.wordpress.com/ and  http://sheffieldoldtownhall.co.uk/

In brief, when the Courts, which had taken over the Old Town Hall when the current Town Hall was built to accommodate city government, Sheffield City Council sold it to central government.  In 1995 the Department for Environment sold it to G1 Properties. Since that time it has fallen into serious decay. Images of the building in various stages of dilapidation were shown, some from Urban Explorers since no one had legal access to the building. There is now serious water damage, floors have collapsed, walls have peeled. But these aren’t any walls and ceilings. These were once fine examples, as Valerie’s slides showed, of ornate architraves, intricate ironwork and wonderful oak panelling.

 

In 2007, when this Grade 2 listed building was placed into the UK’s top ten most endangered buildings, a group of seriously concerned citizens set up the Friends of the Old Town Hall. They have done a lot of work, working in partnership with Sheffield City Council, The Heritage Lottery Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund, and local organisations.  

The task ahead is enormous. The cost of repair following a condition survey and viability assessment  is put at around £10 million. 

A reader may wonder why the council hasn’t used its Compulsory Purchase powers or emergency repairs notice. One might wonder how legislation hasn’t yet been amended by central government since this legislation requires that should a council be unsuccessful in  extracting corrective action from the delinquent owner(s), they must then themselves pay for the repairs themselves. Now  in 2018, after several years of this government’s budget pressures on local authorities, this is clearly not an option.

In recent weeks there was movement at the Old Town Hall. People unknown to the SCC arrived and entered the building, apparently to install further measures to secure the building. It is believed the owners have appointed an architect to look at the building for residential use which is surprising as the study commissioned by the Friends of the Old Town Hall found this not to be a viable option.

 

 

 

Sheffield Central Library: Whither civic pride in Feb 2017?

Mick Nott February 2017

Mick is an active trustee with Sheffield Civic Trust.  He writes in a personal capacity.

Hi, it is now just over 2 months since SCC agreed to grant 12 months exclusivity to an investor to conduct a feasibility study about converting the Sheffield Central Library building into a 5* hotel.  I wrote a blog post that was published a month ago, see – http://sheffieldcivictrust.org.uk/sheffield-central-library-civic-pride/

This post is an update containing what more has happened, what more I know and I advise on what I think campaigners could do if they want to slow down this possible development.

Comments are welcome and if I will respond – but maybe not immediately!

What has happened?

In the previous post I didn’t note that SCC’s Economic and Environmental Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee had discussed the exclusivity decision on 15 December 2016.  The discussion was lengthy and Cabinet councillors and SCC officers attended to answer queries.  The minutes are here: http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/g6571/Printed%20minutes%20Thursday%2015-Dec-2016%2014.30%20Economic%20and%20Environmental%20Wellbeing%20Scrutiny%20and%20Polic.pdf?T=1

Many members of the public raised questions and concerns as well as the councillors on the committee, e.g. what are or would be:

  • the pros and cons of renovation/refurbishment of current building v leasing for development;
  • the plans for continuity and development of central library services in any case;
  • the particulars and nature of the agreement of the company with which SCC have signed the exclusivity agreement.

The answers are more detailed but similar to the ones that had been given in the public meetings after the exclusivity decision was made on 30 November 2016.

The Scrutiny Committee is important because it can call-in Cabinet decisions for review and there were two call-ins at the December 2016  meeting, one on the plans and one on the nature of the agreement.

  • A Scrutiny Committee can refer a decision back to Cabinet for reconsideration and is, in my view (other than direct action!), the sole way that Cabinet can be politically made accountable.
  • The Scrutiny Committee agreed to discuss the plans and decisions about SCL at the Scrutiny Committee meeting on 26 April 2017 (first meeting of FY17/18).

Cllrs, officers, library staff and campaigners went a tour of Liverpool Library.

  • Liverpool have recently renovated their library and been rewarded with an increase in visitor numbers and the library is next to a museum and an art gallery.
  • It was remarked that the developer had already mentioned that he may need to add more floors and/or an annex to the SCL building to convert it to a 5* hotel.

A meeting of concerned citizens, cllrs, officers, buildings and library staff was organised by cllrs and held at the Library.  The meeting consisted of a tour of the building and a discussion with staff, and then staff and cllrs.

  • The tour confirmed that the building is in a poor state and needs major works (subject of another blog) but we knew that already.

The library staff present stated that:

  • access for people with disabilities was inadequate for the C21st and the library theatre is not compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and would be very difficult to make so within the envelope of the current building;
  • was dilapidated and could be uncomfortable for staff (damp, temperature etc) to work in
  • the 1930s physical structure hindered flexibility of staffing, eg multi-tasking on requests, and updating IT and number of computer terminals for a C21st library service;
  • a library shd have performance space (but not necessarily a formal theatre space);
  • it is desirable to bring back archives for staffing and access within the same space as loans, reference, local studies and children’s;
  • a relocation to within the retail quarter may not be inappropriate.

Concerned citizens asked:

  • how could the developer guarantee a 5* hotel as these we were awarded by independent inspection and 5* classification was earned not built to order?
  • if the building were to be gutted (which the possible development would do anyway) and then could it be reconfigured with and extended as in extensive plans and costings drawn up for SCC in 2003 ((1) (which had addressed the DDA and expanding the space available)), and the feasibility study, again for SCC, of 2013?
  • as the Sheffield Cultural Commission had identified the library and art gallery as important buildings and cultural, tourist destinations (Surrey St Central project) in 2015 and 2016 then why had SCC not met up with ARUP as planned?

Jack Scott said he would look into these issues.

Following the money

One of the grounds that the Scrutiny Committee (see above) called-in the Cabinet decision to scrutinise the “…Strategic Investment Partnership Agreement with Guodong and the 12-month Exclusivity Agreement on the potential redevelopment of the Central Library building”.

I was confused in December about who SCC have struck a deal with.  SCC have signed the  agreement concerning the library with Guodong UK Limited (Guodong).  This is a  is a private company first filed with Companies House on 9 May 2016.  The Director and sole shareholder of the initial 100 shares with a capital value of £100 is Chunming Wang and its secretary is Liu Yuan (his son-in-law).  It has to file its first accounts by 31 May 2018.

  • Mr Wang owns the private company Chengdu Guodong Nanyuan Investment Co. Ltd. (CGNICLtd) that has its main interests in hotel management.
  • This company is a subsidiary of the Sichuan Guodong Construction Company Group Ltd (SGCCGLtd) which is a private company also owned by Mr Wang.
  • The Sichuan Guodong Construction Company Group Ltd (SGCCGLtd) holds shares in the Sichuan Guodong Construction Company Ltd (SGCCLtd).  This  is a publicly quoted company on the Shanghai Stock Exchange and Chunming Wang is Chairman of the Board.
  • I have heard that Guodong UK Ltd needed to be created so that Mr Wang has a company to which he can transfer money from his companies in China to a UK company.
  • I think people would like more detail about what SCC has agreed with whom and when and in my view that is a job of the Scrutiny Committee.

I have put a bit more detail into this document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NNmzBH_b0v7SF415MulCJNcLeWj8H23yF4Zx21OG8h4/edit?usp=sharing.  When SCC originally announced the agreement to work together with Mr Wang and his companies the BBC quickly followed up with an interview with Mr Wang in July 2016, see https://youtu.be/efVysmaQpC0.  At the time Mr Wang said he saw the need for a 5* hotel in Sheffield.

What do people want?

  • Cllrs want to “keep the wheels on the wagon” and if the prospect is to raise all SCC’s funds from 2020, when central government grants will cease, through business rates, council tax and services then any investment will look attractive.

  • People need and want a C21st library service in the centre of the city close to public transport and with DDA-compliant access.

  • People need and want a DDA-compliant auditorium that can be used by amateur and professional companies to stage productions at affordable rents.

  • People need and want a DDA-compliant public art gallery accessible at all times (nb the Graves Gallery is currently not open on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesday mornings and Bank Holidays.  No other core city closes its main galleries for two whole consecutive days and times when people are on public holidays)

  • The library building is listed and was envisaged from the 1990s within the award-winning Heart of the City project as an integral part of the public, civic buildings and spaces that includes the route (2) from the railway station to Barkers Pool and includes, Sheaf Square, Howard St, Millenium Galleries, Surrey St/Tudor Square, Central Library, Crucible, Lyceum, Winter Gardens, Peace Gardens, Barkers Pool and City Hall.  In my mind (and I know it has some faults) this is an inspired example of city centre design that provides a pleasant, attractive and integrated set of buildings and spaces for people walk around, visit and enjoy at their leisure.

  • People need to be re-assured that in any case that there will be no break or discontinuity in central library services and that there will be library services in the city centre close to public transport.

What can be done?

My view is that this process feels very unclear and rushed with no clear plans or alternatives to Mr Wang’s wants being offered for people, citizens and councillors, to consider or discuss.  The first stage to slow the process down and make the Cabinet accountable would be through the Economic and Environmental Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee meeting on 26 April 2017.  The political strategies would be

  • lobby this meeting through an e-petition on SCC website (3)

  • ask the chair of the committee to be allowed to attend the meeting and present a case for referring the decision back (4)

  • lobby members of the committee.  Any citizen can ask a councillor, who represents their ward and sits on the Scrutiny Committee, questions to raise wrt particular items on the Scrutiny Committee’s agenda.

  • any citizen can ask a question of the committee. You can write to your councillor or see them at one of their surgeries (5)

 (1). SCC commissioned a firm of architects to propose possible alternatives for SCL.  These were produced for SCC in 2003 (and can be seen as part of completing Heart of the City).  We have seen copies of these six proposals for the current building (and an additional proposal on a new, unspecified site) and believe the six proposals for the current SCL:

  1. contained detail of renovating and updating the building’s interior and access (to make it DDA compliant);

  2. they have (2003) costings but more detail is requ’d;

  3. there is aesthetic and functional merit in each proposal but obviously all would need proper planning scrutiny.

(2). This is the Gold Route and actually finishes at the University of Sheffield.  The current works at the University will be the end of the route.

(3). “Petitions with 2,500 or more signatures can require a senior officer to give evidence at a Scrutiny Committee. Petitions with 5,000 or more signatures will trigger a public debate by Full Council. We require 7 working days’ notice prior to a Council meeting for a public debate at Full Council to ensure that members have adequate time to prepare for the debate.”

(4). In the case of Scrutiny Committees, this can also involve evidence from people and organisations outside of the Council and it can sometimes take several meetings before the Scrutiny Committee reaches its conclusions and makes any recommendations to the Cabinet or Council.

(5). You have to give 24h notice of the question and attend the meeting to ask the question. See https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/your-city-council/have-your-say.html and follow the links!

 Economic and Environmental Wellbeing Scrutiny Cttee

The Committee members list is here http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=136

Click on the link and you get the cllr’s profile, surgery hours and contact details.

Contacting cllrs by email ensures you have a record of your query: date, time and content.

Each member has a substitute member from their ward.

Member

Party

Ward

Councillor Steve Wilson  (Chair)

Lab

East Ecclesfield

Councillor Ian Auckland  (Deputy Chair)

LibDem

Graves Park

Councillor Penny Baker

LibDem

Stannington

Councillor Lisa Banes

Lab

Manor Castle

Councillor Neale Gibson

Lab

Walkley

Councillor Dianne Hurst

Lab

Richmond

Councillor Talib Hussain

Lab

Burngreave

Councillor Abdul Khayum

Lab

Firth Park

Councillor Helen Mirfin-Boukouris

Lab

Beighton

Councillor Ben Miskell

Lab

Park & Arbourthorne

Councillor Robert Murphy

Green

City

Councillor Andy Nash

LibDem

Beauchief & Greenhill

Councillor Chris Peace

Lab

Gleadless Valley

Councillor Martin Smith

LibDem

Dore & Totley

Councillor Paul Wood

Lab

Woodhouse

 

 

Sheffield Central Library: Whither civic pride?

Blog post by Mick Nott, an active trustee with Sheffield Civic Trust.  Mick writes here in a personal capacity, but the Sheffield Civic Trust are also looking to gather views and responses on the Sheffield Central Library proposals, so please get in touch.

Sheffield Central Library: What was decided?

  • In November 2016 Sheffield City Council’s (SCC) Cabinet committee gave the Sichuon Goudong Construction Company (SGCC) 12 months exclusivity to determine if it was feasible to convert the Sheffield Central Library (SCL) building into a 5 star hotel and Art Gallery.

  • Sheffield Central Library houses the main library, the local studies centre, the Graves Art Gallery, and a theatre (available for all to hire from SCC).

What was the decision?

  • The decision is that the SGCC will have 12 months, until November 2017, exclusivity to develop proposals and plans to develop SCL as a 5* hotel and Art Gallery.

  • Cabinet councillors state that the SCL is no longer fit for purpose in the 21st century.  It is:

    • expensive to repair and maintain to essential health and safety standards(£500k in the last 3 years, £2.2m over the next 3 years);

    • in need of substantial funds (£30m) to refurbish as it stands to bring it up to standards of service, access, particularly disabled access, and structure for a C21st library service.(All figures given by councillors at recent meetings).

What else was decided?

  • It was decided that at the end of 12 months neither party would be obliged to agree to continue with the possible development.

  • The SCL would not be sold in any case; it would be leased. The nature of any possible lease, e.g. length, repairs etc, has not been decided.

  • SCC has accepted the SGCC proposal that the Art Gallery should remain within the building and could be moved to a lower & more accessible floor if the development takes place.

What was not decided?

  • No possible site has yet been identified for a new central library.

  • There are possible funding sources for a new library but these have not been definitely identified yet.

  • A new library would not be PFI funded.

  • A replacement for the SCC-owned and managed Library Theatre cannot be guaranteed.

What is promised?

  • If this development were to go ahead then SCC would build a new central library fit for purpose and perhaps reuniting the library, local studies, and archives together.

  • The new central library would be no more than ½ mile from the location of the current SCL.

  • There will be no discontinuity in central library services

What is the background to these decisions?

  • In July 2016 SGCC and SCC signed an agreement to cooperate in the development of the city of Sheffield.  SGCC has promised to contribute £220m over the next 3 years to develop projects in the city centre and a total of £1bn over the next 60 years.  This agreement had been negotiated for 18 months, that is, since Jan 2015.

  • Central government has progressively and severely reduced central grants to Local Authorities.  There will be no central government funds granted to local authorities from April 2020.  From April 2020 Sheffield, like all local authorities, will be funded solely from its business rates, council taxes and any revenue they can raise from assets and services.

  • Councillors have stated that a development like this could provide an income of £1m pa in business rates.

What was the reaction?

  • This news was broadcast in the local media and there has been a significant public reaction.

  • A public petition to keep the library as a library has been signed by over 10,000 people. A facebook group has been set up too.

  • Councillors have noted the public size and strength of response and have held a series of four public meetings (nb the same presentation four times) so far to explain and respond to public questions and statements from members of the public.

  • The two councillors who made the presentations have also contacted individuals who left questions at the end of the meetings.  The councillors say they want the process to be transparent and are eager to talk to individuals concerned.

Why do I think Sheffield Civic Trust (SCT) should care?

  • Sheffield Civic Trust is not only concerned with individual developments or particular buildings it is also concerned with: the structure, appearance and feel of the city; how people can move around the city; what the city provides culturally, administratively, commercially, and residentially for its own citizens and visitors.  A place where people like to play, shop, work and live!

  • SCL is a key part of the cultural life of the city and sits at present in the heart of the city.  The last grand development to be realised in the city was the Heart of the City project.  This includes, Sheaf Square, Howard St, Millennium Galleries, Winter Garden, Peace Gardens, St Paul’s including Millennium Square, Tudor Square, Barkers Pool and the surrounds and work was also done on the City Hall.  But SCL seems not to have received the same civic attention that perhaps it deserves or deserved.

  • The current SCL is located within the Heart of the City.  It is next to Tudor Square and its main access is from Surrey Street which is part of the Gold Route – a route planned through the city from the railway station to the University of Sheffield that provides good access for all pedestrians and cyclists to every part of Heart of the City.

  • Sheffield is one of the ten core UK cities and it should be a matter of civic pride that what the city provides as its civic offer satisfies its citizens, attracts visitors and can be evaluated to match the other core cities.  The SCL is part of this offer with the library (including the archives), the Graves Art Gallery and the Library Theatre.  To be considered a core city then I think Sheffield needs to provide a national if not international standard of library services. It should have a national quality art gallery and it should provide a theatre that is accessible for the use of amateur as well as professional groups.  Sheffield doesn’t have a 5* hotel.

  • There have been significant changes since the planning and funding of the Heart of City.  There has been the universal economic crash.  We now live in an age of austerity.  In England national policies have successively cut central funds and will eventually stop giving any funds to local authorities.  We will not receive any EU funds.  Local authorities will still have duties and obligations set by central government and the levels or increases of business rates and council taxes will also be determined by central government.  Local Authorities will become managers of central government policy.  The only discretionary funds they will have will be what surplus they can raise once they have fulfilled their obligatory duties.  Other funds will also be available from developers whether they are public companies or  private companies or individual philanthropists.

  • There have also been changes in planning regulations.  It is much easier for developers to build what they want and much harder for local authorities to challenge what developers want.  Regional economic and transport policies are much more likely to be determined by enterprise zones, which are dominated by unelected business members, and nascent city regions whose political configurations and democratic voice and responsiveness are unclear.  Housing policy is centrally determined and local authorities have to sell assets like council houses.

  • The prospect of a local authority being able to plan future developments that are coherent and consistent with previous developments, and for the public good of all, seems to have slipped away.  I need to find out more but it could be that this process may have already started in Sheffield with the development of the New Retail Quarter and the siting of the HS2 station.

And I think this brings me back to July 2016 when SCC signed an agreement with SGCC about investing in developing Sheffield.  The nature of this agreement is not clear.  It could be that SGCC is a preferred bidder.  In response to questions about whether other bids had been received or sought with respect to developing the SCL, the councillors said no other developer had come forward with any proposals.  I think SCC have a duty to realise the best value or return from its assets that it can:

  • if SGCC come back in a year with a plan that says its proposals are feasible and a projection of a sum of money that these plans could produce then, in the absence of any alternatives, how will councillors be able to evaluate that other better returns could be realised?

They won’t be able to: I’ve asked.

And SGCC has paid no money upfront for exclusivity – other than I presume any monies offered or promised in the agreement signed in July 2016.  So none of us will know if the best deal possible.

My understanding of free market theory is that a free market will determine the best price.  If there isn’t a market you can or ought to create one.  SCC could have done this by publicly tendering or offering the possibility of developing SCL to any developer interested and if it got at least more than one offer it would be able, after due diligence, to evaluate which proposal was better value for its revenue and its citizens.  It’s unclear to me whether SGCC now has some form of monopoly on how Sheffield develops.

Councillors have declared that they want the process about the development of SCL to be open and transparent with the citizens of Sheffield.  How open can SCC be when they are collaborating with SGCC, a private company, that would probably want or see a need to maintain commercial confidentiality?  We could have a city where exclusivity and secrecy may not be working but competing with democracy and transparency.

Private companies’ developments are not necessarily bad or wrong.  They also may want to build for the public good, and often they want to maintain a good public image.  Councillors are not malevolent.  It is a thankless task because they take the blame when and if things go wrong.  Councillors’ ability to make a pro-active contribution to civic life is limited by central government edicts and starvation of funds.  However SCT needs to recognise that the city’s future development may be dominated, if not monopolised, by private capital with little democratic input.

As a civic trust then SCT should work on developing a view or manifesto for the spaces, transport, buildings and services that Sheffield should have and deserves to have as a UK core city.  A manifesto would provide the guidance for SCT to monitor, evaluate, advise and make representations about the development and preservation of the city.  Let’s be part of determining and building civic pride!

Mick Nott, January 2017

Sheffield Housing Expo launched at train station

  • Expo showcases new design ideas to solve the housing crisis 
  • Our new exhibition ‘New Urban Housing Ideas for Sheffield‘ forms part of Design Week 2016

The Sheffield Housing Expo – an exhibition of innovative new housing design – has been launched at Sheffield Train Station as part of Sheffield Design Week 2016.Our exhibition called ‘New Urban Housing Ideas for Sheffield’ showcases 10 award-winning examples of urban housing from across the UK and Europe. They were selected and curated by Adam Park, Simon Chadwick and Tom Hunt, trustees of the Civic Trust, to show how new urban homes can be environmentally sustainable, affordable, and designed to the highest standard. They include a beautiful social housing block in Dublin, the first co-housing project in London, and the reimagining of a Sheffield terraced house. It presents photos and drawings of each project, key information about the designs, and explains why we have chosen them. The Expo is on display at the train station, opposite Marks and Spencer, until Sunday 30th October.

Here’s why we’ve put on the Expo:

We need more new homes. Everyone knows this. But the conversation can’t stop there.We want to shift the debate from ‘we need more homes’ to ‘we need more and better homes‘.

Our exhibition showcases 10 examples of urban housing from across the UK and Europe. They have been chosen because they show how new homes can be environmentally sustainable, affordable, and designed to the highest standard.

But most importantly they provide great places to live. They show how new urban housing can create new urban communities.

We’ve chosen urban housing because Sheffield has lots of sites, big and small, empty and in use, where we could imagine housing like these 10 examples being developed. New estates of semi-detached houses on green fields aren’t the only types of homes that can be built.

Sheffield has a proud tradition of innovative housing and we want to be proud about new homes in our city again. Across Sheffield construction is taking place and cranes are back on the skyline – but let’s not just keep on building more of the same.  It’s about increasing the quantity – and the quality.

So this exhibition is our challenge to the Council, to the architects, planners and investors, and to all of us.

Let’s be more demanding, more ambitious. Let’s learn from the best and then be better.

The housing crisis can be solved. Let’s build more homes but let’s also put Sheffield back at the forefront of housing design.

The architects involved in the exhibition include Project Orange, Ash Sakula, Niall McLaughlin Architects, Pitman Tozer Architects, Claire and David Kemp, Henley Halebrown Rorrison, Architecten-en-en, and O’Donnell and Tuomey, and Peter Barber Architects.

The exhibition was designed and produced by Sheffield Civic Trust in collaboration with The University of Sheffield School of Architecture.

Protecting Sheffield’s Trees – a significant part of our city’s USP

Lee Heykoop, a member of Sheffield Civic Trust’s trustee board, gives her personal take on the treatment of street trees in Sheffield and offers her views on what needs to happen next.

The treatment of street trees in Sheffield, which has disturbed a lot of people, got me to try to pull together the main points as I know them. . . .

I have not been a consistent follower of the several campaigns goaded into being by Amey’s cavalier  approach to felling trees in the Streets Ahead project. So it can be hard to keep track about everything happening with Rustlings Road and the SORT campaign; in Greenhill, Nether Edge, Dore,  Heeley and the Rivelin Valley and with STAG, the Sheffield Tree Action Group which is an umbrella organisation.

I understand that while Amey excuse their excessive tree felling as necessary, much of it is ill-informed, unnecessary, and serving the bottom line. I have heard Prof. Ian Rotherham relate that an Amey representative excused the felling of a 400 year old oak on the grounds that it was replaced with a new tree!

I grasp the fact that all that Amey have done does not contravene their contract with Sheffield City Council (SCC). And that no matter how hard I have tried to read the contract I cannot. It has been subject to an FOI. But to whom it was available and for how long is to be discovered. Comment trails on online discussions speak of it being unavailable or heavily redacted and meaningless.

Surely there were some well considered quality standards included and referenced in the Amey contract that I can study by which they can be called to account? That would be a Tree Strategy,  which would articulate well-informed, long-, medium- & short-term policies and aims, and which would then be expressed as objectives and specific deliverables. But there isn’t one! There was a Draft Sheffield Tree Strategy 2001 which was not adopted. Do I suspect political/financial motives at that time ahead of contracting the Streets Ahead project?

The absence of a Sheffield Tree Strategy may be the reason for the incomprehensive and  incomplete statements in the parts of the Streets Ahead literature on professional arboricultural practice. Perhaps the authorities believe there is no gap here, after all there is a ‘Streets Ahead 5 Year Tree Strategy’. But this  document hints at being  put together for the use of it title. So it is useful to read Brian Crane’s analysis which dissects its pretensions. The analysis is available here, via Ian Rotherham’s blog:

But then what need is there of a guiding strategy if professional arboricultural advice is being taken by Amey in any case? Would it make a  difference once you know these arboriculturalists are not independent practitioners but are employed by Amey?

Would it make you really really want your local authority to use good procedures and to most definitely have to follow guidance from a yet-to-exist Sheffield Tree Strategy if you thought the council were putting tree felling up for a vote? It is important that democratically raised sentiments are not ignored or manipulated, nor the responsibility to preserve and enhance, and to act sustainably for this and future generations, ducked. The Council’s questionnaire which was delivered as a leaflet in Nether Edge certainly implies that a number of voices wanting trees to be felled (some people don’t like leaves dropping or birds sitting on branches doing droppings on their cars) would be taken into account.

It is good to think that things are getting better. Campaigners sought and gained  on February 9th  an interim (3 month)  injunction on tree felling until a Judicial Review.  Charles Streeten, of Francis Taylor Building, instructed by the Environmental Law Foundation is working pro bono on this. Funds are being raised to cover the court fees if the case isn’t won.

And the Council now seem to be promising a Sheffield Tree Strategy. To this end they held a consultation event at the Town Hall on 26th February 2016. It was interesting and I learned that the Parks and Countryside team (who hosted the event) have been doing a lot of tree planting in the city’s woodlands and parks. A pity though that street trees are outside their remit.

But I came away with a greater concern. My conversation there with Chris Healey, Head of Parks and Countryside, revealed that the forthcoming Sheffield Tree Strategy is intended to make recommendations ‘for consideration’ at the Street’s Ahead annual review. This is too weak – it has nil enforcement value.

There are currently no mechanisms in place for taking further the aims and policies that will be expressed in the Sheffield Tree Strategy into actions for delivery.

The annual review of the Streets Ahead (so-called) 5 Year Tree Strategy is not a sufficient mechanism for including the scale and nature of changes necessary , since contravention of the contract would be cited to not take action.

Sheffield City Council should be made to  renegotiate  their contract with Amey.

Professional voices should be listened to:

I hope campaigners will sustain their campaigning. Their feeling and passion seems to be legitimately rooted in outrage about what is seen to be incompetence and wreckage.

Sheffield has become a clean city after its industrial heyday. It offers greenness and invigorating lifestyles to make people who come for  manufacturing or engineering, for the knowledge economy or creative industries, love this city.

The city’s trees are a significant part of its USP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Options for ‘long-term urban growth’ of Sheffield published by URBED

David Rudlin, who launched our Year of Housing back in May, was invited by Sheffield City Council to look at how the ‘Garden City’ Wolfson Prize ideas might apply to Sheffield. The options for growth described in the report also featured in a talk by David Rudlin as part of the recent Sheffield Urban Design Week.

The final version of the report, titled ‘Sheffield Garden City? Options for long-term urban growth’ is now available as a pdf download here.

‘The first of the new?’ Guest post on the new proposals for Sheffield’s Retail Quarter

Guest post by Julian Dobson, first published on Julian’s website Living With Rats

srq-sandstone-edge-concept

The latest consultation on the future of Sheffield’s city centre closed last month. By the turn of the decade, it’s hoped, the city will have a brand new shopping quarter optimistically described by some of its proponents as the ‘first of the new’.

Sheffield Retail Quarter, as it’s currently known, is the latest in a saga of plans and projects that can be traced back at least 20 years. It was once known as the ‘New Retail Quarter’, but ‘new’ rapidly became a hostage to fortune.

Over the last decade the area adjoining the landmarks of City Hall at Barker’s Pool and the impressive Victorian town hall has been the focus of a £600m redevelopment plan led by developer Hammerson and anchored by John Lewis, the department store of choice for cities worried about their retail rankings. The scheme, branded as Sevenstone, floundered and was aborted in 2013.

So what will we end up with after nearly a quarter of a century of consultancy, masterplanning, public consultation and political lobbying? There are some signs that concerns have been taken on board: the latest consultation emphasises the quality of urban design and materials, a mixture of uses, walkability and the protection and restoration of neglected historic buildings.

Other signs might suggest that not much has changed. The aspiration for Sheffield to be a ‘top shopping destination’ is still foregrounded; at bottom, this may still be an old-style ‘build it and they will come’ big-box mall, though in a city centre rather than on the edges. A shed with frills is still a shed.

What should or could the ‘first of the new’ look like? One response might be to examine who shapes the development, and who owns and benefits from it. Is Sheffield’s retail quarter just another tradable asset for the property industry? In which directions does the value flow?

What was really radical about Ebenezer Howard’s garden city proposals was not just the green space and urban planning, but the insistence that assets should be held in trust for the benefit of the community. It’s an insistence that contemporary practice tends to forget.

Questions of ownership lead on to issues of access. If Sheffield’s retail quarter is to be the first of the new, you might expect to see a very different range of uses and occupants to those found in most urban shopping centres. Will we see the innovative and experimental businesses that are normally squeezed out of so-called high value locations? To achieve that, space needs to be available at low rents and on flexible terms.

The ‘first of the new’ should surprise and delight in ways other retail areas don’t. You can’t plan in serendipity, but you can plan for it. One way to do that is to ensure that enterprising uses that seem to have little commercial value can exist cheek-by-jowl with hard-headed profit-making. Community and civic uses, places for sociability and idling, spaces for growing and performance should all be part of the mix.

That demands an approach to planning that prioritises animating and curating space, moving beyond the regulation-and-enforcement protocols of use classes and paper trails. Regulation needs to be in there, but it’s neither the start nor the end of the process.

That necessitates planners being closer to the streets, not more distant. It will take a brave local authority to invest in engaged and positive planning in the current climate, but the benefits are there to be grasped. When planners know their patches as intimately as the people who use them every day, we might all end up with better city centres.

Follow Julian on Twitter @juliandobson

“How can we see the wood for the Trees?” – one woman’s quest for clarity about Sheffield’s trees.

Image: Save the 12 Trees on Rustlings Road, Sheffield petition (http://chn.ge/1K7XJu2)

Post by Lee Heykoop, SCT board member

Beautiful , mature trees in the city are the gift of someone’s vision a generation or more ago. Besides the shade that makes a city tolerable when there’s a heatwave, I would be lost without trees marking the seasons- taking me through Spring, into deep Summer and out into Autumn. They are real live elements of the city. Is this why it is that trees affect so many people?

Recent ‘tree issues’ in Sheffield have been heated. And while the intricacies are too detailed to summarise here, the aspects this article will focus on are:-

  • The criticism and the Council’s response
  • The quest for clarity
  • Persistence to find out if a contractor of the council is empowered to deal with trees even if their action can result in damage or loss
  • And despair at changing things for the better
  • A possible solution to pavement damage—the Stockholm Tree Planting System

Letter from the Fulfilment Team:
I have found a barrage of criticism answered by a seven and a half page letter from our council’s ‘Fulfilment Team’. It’s function is clearly to explain, and answer questions and spread a feeling of fulfilment to ease away all concerns. So why am I left wondering if this is the whole truth and who is it actually from? Who are the Fulfilment Team? There is no personal signature (no personal responsibility). It is signed from ‘Streets Ahead’. Does Amey have any input into this?

Accountability and Contract details:
To return to my reluctance about being reassured, the letter addresses the issue of requests from the public to see the Amey contract. No problem, it reads, the contract is online. Or is it? Enter the e-correspondence trail from David Jones’s Freedom of Information request in February 2014 which ends with these entries this June:-

  • 10th June – Vincent Bowen: the link given by Sheffield Council (to the contract) doesn’t work
  • 11th June – David Jones: it worked a year ago, shame it doesn’t now
  • 15th June – Paul Whitlow: try this one https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/business-ec (the link now leads to a ‘page 404 not found’ message, and a search of the council’s website got me no further than Amey’s contract ‘Data Sheet’ which appears to be company statistics/ promotional material.
  • 16th June – Keith Alford: he had read the contract the previous year, but so much had been redacted that ‘the document was of little use to any resident of Sheffield who wishes to check the scope of or specification of the work’ against the contract requirements.

Is there a Sheffield Tree Strategy which applies to the Highways?
Contained in the long apologetic letter mentioned above, there has been no mention of strategies for new street planting, only replacement trees. A more proactive view is voiced in Sheffield City Council ‘s, ‘Sheffield’s Tree and Woodland Strategy: consultation document’. It is a shame then that this dates from 2001, and that there doesn’t appear to be an actual Tree Strategy for Sheffield – it looks like this document was never adopted by SCC. The shame is that a Tree Strategy would have set out a vision for trees; it would have described the different aspects of that vision, giving examples; it would have been referred to in the contract as indicative of the performance level to be achieved.

Going anti-clockwise
I admit I read the Fulfulment Team’s letter before I read in full what it was responding to—namely the 29 page document from the Save Our Rustlings Trees campaign group, which I commend. They know (they say this) that the topic is wider than trees just on their road. It is an excellent document and deals with all aspects regarding trees:

  • What the law requires of Local Authorities (LAs)
  • Policy documents e.g. Trees in Towns II; the UK Forestry Standard and its Guidelines; National Tree Safety Group.
  • Health and Safety and where guidance does not expect more from responsible landowners
  • Questions about contractual requirements that SCC make on Amey (and yes where are these contract particulars)
  • SCC’s lack of recourse to professional expert advice which would help, guide and instruct contractors – as would a Tree Strategy. But where are these?

What should we do?
My personal view is that, alongside excellent maintenance of existing tree stock, I want to see some strategic improvements and strategic new planting and re-planting in Sheffield. And this might be coordinated with pavement and road repairs so as to utilise the Stockholm tree planting system; a method that solves the future possibility of pavement heave. First comes investment in expertise and quality and from these are generated sustainable (including monetary sustainability) approaches.

Are we there yet?
Given that Sheffield City Council don’t have a Tree Strategy, don’t consult (or not enough) with experts, and don’t make the content of the contract with Amey public, I don’t have confidence in their capacity to manage such an important, living, asset.

Setting the context for Sheffield’s future housing challenges

Guest blog post by Professor Gordon Dabinett, Professor for Regional Studies, Sheffield University, and co-author of the State of Sheffield 2015 report

At the recent Sheffield Civic Trust housing event, David Rudlin director of URBED outlined his views on how Garden City extensions might be relevant to the future challenges faced by Sheffield, based on the premise that the city needs more houses.

Sheffield has certainly undergone a significant transformation in the last twenty years. Despite facing a legacy of declining heavy industry, it has seen the creation of new employment opportunities and businesses; the two Universities have significantly increased student numbers and capital investment; neighbourhoods have been renewed; and the city’s image radically reshaped with a series of high profile regeneration projects. Like most other medium sized cities in Europe and the UK, Sheffield has experienced recent population growth, reflecting the outcome of migration to the city and increases in the living age and birth rates.

The recent Census of Population 2011 has provided a detailed picture of this population change in Sheffield, as the resident population increased by 7.6% from 513,200 in 2001 to 552,700 in 2011, reversing the previous decline. In particular there has been a significant growth in the number of 15-24 year olds living in the city, and there over 55,000 university students. The community profile of the city has also changed: in 2011 there were 109,500 people from ethnic minorities, more than double the 55,200 in 2001. These changes largely mirror the country as a whole and other English Core Cities.

The general trends mask what are very different experiences across the city though. The Sheffield Fairness Commission in 2012 revealed significant inequalities, with areas in the south and west of the city in the least deprived 20% of the country, whilst nearly a third of Sheffield’s population lived in areas that fell within the 20% most deprived in the country, largely located in the north and east of the city. As a result, Sheffield on average remains one of the least deprived major cities in England, but also one of the most unequal.

Whilst the city population has continued to grow, some wards saw a decline in their populations between 2001 and 2011, such as Woodhouse (-3.1%), Southey Green (-4.4%) and Birley (-6.6%); other areas experienced significant growth such as Burngreave (+14.7%) and Darnall (+11.6%).  These later two wards also have the highest proportion of their populations who are 15 years old or younger (over 25% compared to 16% in the city as a whole), and consequently more households are made up of married couples with dependent children in these areas. These neighbourhoods are also the most culturally diverse, with the BME communities accounting for 62% and 49% of the population in these areas respectively. The most spectacular growth over this period has been in the city central ward where the population increased by 19,098 people which more than doubled the population of this area to 36,412 people.

The changing population of the city has clearly had impacts on the provision of housing in Sheffield and how local housing markets might provide desired residential offers for a diverse set of demands. There is a high degree of ‘place attachment’ in Sheffield’s housing, and the city is largely regarded to be a self-contained housing market area, since 72% of residential moves take place within the city boundary. There are important links to neighbouring districts, especially Rotherham, Barnsley and adjacent Derbyshire. Migration patterns are subsequently localised, and whilst Sheffield loses population to surrounding districts, it gains population from those undertaking long-distance moves (mainly young professionals with families) and international migrants (including students).

Furthermore daily commuting figures show that in both absolute and proportionate terms, the flow of people commuting out of the wider Sheffield city region for work is greater than the flow commuting in for work, and both flows have increased over the last decade. These patterns in part reflect the city region’s employment gap or low employment density, which results in many residents having to seek work elsewhere, in particular north to Leeds and Wakefield, and south to other areas in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Within the city region, Sheffield has the highest proportion of residents who also work within the same local authority area (78%), but it also has the highest number of workers who commute in from elsewhere everyday (nearly 64,000). In contrast, Barnsley and Doncaster have the highest number of residents who work outside the city region, and North East Derbyshire and Bolsover have the highest proportion of residents who commute to work outside their own local authority (75% and 70% respectively).

I would therefore suggest that to be able to respond actively and positively to the recent growth in population raises not only the question of where new homes should be built, but also the far more complex and significant questions:

  • What sort of city might Sheffield be in the future, and what changes will occur in the many and varied neighbourhoods that currently constitute the city?
  • As new and more jobs are created, what new links will emerge between home and work in the wider city region, and how will commuting patterns change?
  • What is the future for public services and the related wellbeing of diverse and ageing populations in an already unequal city?