Call to Action from Joined Up Heritage Sheffield

Following the planning committee’s principled decision to refuse permission for a block of apartments to replace the historic Old Coroner’s Court on Nursery Street, the ball is now in the Council’s court to resolve the situation. The Old Coroner’s Court is still very much at risk and the developer still has the right to demolish it at any time.

Please contact your local councillors, copying Council leader Julie Dore, as soon as possible to ask that the Council immediately reach out to the developer, George Johnston of Firestone, and the architect, Coda, to find an alternative to demolition. This should not be difficult to find if approached in a positive and collaborative spirit. The developer has already proposed several schemes which are preferable to losing the building altogether, and the Council needs to be open-minded about these.

You can find contact details for your local councillors at http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx  Cllr Julie Dore can be contacted at julie.dore@sheffield.gov.uk

Response to Heart of the City 2, Block B & C consultation

Sheffield Civic Trust Feedback
in response to the consultation on Sheffield’s Heart of the City 2, Block B & C

Sheffield Civic Trust (SCT) thanks Queensbury, Counter Context and the design team at Leonard Design, for presenting the current proposals for The Heart of the City 2 to the membership.
The Trust recognises how the briefing from Sheffield City Council has resulted in the retention of much loved heritage buildings, despite their non designated status. The City Council’s vision in acting as client and driving the brief to the benefit of the city is welcomed.
SCT support the scheme especially on the following aspects;
– the horizontal mix of use i.e. retail at street level with apartments and offices at the upper levels
– access to upper floors with entrances from the street
– the block by block, phased approach outlined in the presentation
– the focus on a mix of uses that the current market is not supporting i.e. 2/3 bedroom apartments with quality external space rather than student housing.
– retention of the existing street pattern
– high-quality public space, that continues the approach taken throughout the city centre
– proposed historic façade retention.

Detailed design comments
Whilst the façade retention is welcomed, the gridded façade ‘folding’ into the existing pitched roof of the existing building (Laycock House) was considered awkward in some members’ minds. As this is a prominent corner, a more sensitive design solution should be considered.
The architectural treatment of corners of both blocks on to the new ‘5 ways’ are a great opportunity for the designers. Seven Dials in London’s Covent Garden was raised as a good precedent for the design. It was felt that the opportunity to mark this significant meeting of streets has been missed in the current design.
It was felt that the glazing proportions proposed within the new buildings should respect the order and hierarchy of the existing street facades more closely. Fenestration which denotes a top, middle and bottom may be more successful. The tendency towards expressing the top of the buildings in ‘zinc hats’ should be avoided, given their prevalence in speculative schemes over the last decade. The proposal for vertical stripes at the top of Laycock House currently give the appearance of cladding, similar to that used recently on a prominent car park in the city. Higher quality materials and detailing rather than the cladding shown are felt to be more appropriate. For instance the larger duplex units that top Block B could be
expressed whilst retaining the materials and architectural language of the rest of the block.
The servicing of the retail units from pedestrianised roads rather than a dedicated service yard is welcomed but will require careful management. This could ensure the strategy to reduce traffic congestion works, by encouraging workers to linger in the city centre after work.

Over view
The current approach of developing the Heart of the City 2 block by block has great potential for a rich and diverse mix of architecture uses and streets in the heart of our city. This richness is emerging in the
public realm, which looks both complex and exciting and is all about Sheffield.. The retention of historic facades will reinforce this diversity and local identity. However of concern is the emerging similarity in the building designs to date. The architectural expression of grids and cladding now emerging on the HSBC building is to be repeated on Blocks B&C. This reinforces the Trust’s belief that a more diverse range of designers should be employed to tie the scheme better to its context.
For future plots, we would welcome a commitment from SCC to promote more variation and design quality by committing to either design competitions or a diverse mix of designers/architects for each plot .
This approach was adopted at Liverpool One and has resulted in a wide range of architecture which enhances the experience of the city. Liverpool One avoids any uniformity or blandness in favour of a rich sequence of spaces and buildings which knit the development into the city – We do not want the blandness of Meadowhall transplanted into our city. We do want a more distinctive, new heart to our city that says ‘Sheffield!’
We hope that Sheffield City Council will consider supporting local suppliers in the awarding of the construction contracts, and proactively implement the Social Value Act, by considering inclusion of local labour clauses as appropriate when commissioning the development.
Whilst the aim for high quality city centre living with a range of types of dwelling is laudable, the City Council should have a long-term plan for a range of ownership, to avoid gentrification that precludes a fair and equitable city centre for its citizens.
We look forward to seeing the planning application in due course, and to engaging with the relevant parties as the Heart of the City 2 scheme goes forward.

Louise Watt
Chair Sheffield Civic Trust
on behalf of the Trustees.
October 2018

GREAT BRITISH SELL OFF AND COMMUNITY ASSET TRANSFER

In June this year Locality, which is the national membership charity of community organisations, launched Save our Spaces. This is a campaign to save buildings and spaces that have come to be seen as a maintenance liability to councils from being sold off into private ownership. Losing public buildings and green spaces to private enterprise is bound to deplete our social fabric – often involving shareholders and thus the private organisation’s duty to take profits out from that asset to pay their shareholder dividends.

An alternative already exists. Community Asset Transfer was set up in 2003, whereby councils may sell assets to community organisations at below market rates in exchange for demonstrable community benefit.

Community ownership is an alternative to private or public ownership. It involves a community organisation legally set up for the public benefit that makes an asset available to the whole community without private or public commercial gain.

While alarm about the Great British Sell-Off has been circulating for a few years, and despite community asset transfer being the third option, Locality has discovered that fewer than half Local Authorities have an asset transfer policy.

Sheffield City Council has set up The Community Right to Bid which is billed as giving ‘people of Sheffield the chance to bid, to buy and take over the running of assets that are considered of value to the local community which are being sold by the current owners’. A community needs to nominate and successfully have registered the asset (a Council process). Once this is completed, my understanding is that the owner cannot sell it for purposes outside the community benefit it brings – though they don’t have to sell it to that particular community group. So that when the owner wants to sell it, the scheme allows the community group six months to make an offer to buy the asset.

Clearly, this calls on active and co-operative citizenship. As the saying goes: ‘less talk, more do’.

SHEFFIELD WATERWAYS AND FLOOD PROTECTION STRATEGY

Members will be aware that the issue of schemes for the better protection of Sheffield from floods such as the devastating one of 2007 has been around for a while now. The initial proposals roused a lot of opposition from heritage and conservation groups. In particular, those proposals which related to the Rivers Loxley and Rivelin included hard works which were considered likely to impact adversely on aesthetic, wildlife, historical, architectural and archaeological features of those valleys. In some cases, doubt was in any event cast on their likely efficacy as well. A wide range of organisations raised objections including the SCT. All then went quiet when the Government refused to fund the proposals. Whilst the City Council had originally agreed to meetings with concerned individuals and groups, a meeting never happened. Now funding is apparently on the table for proposals which affect the Don catchment. (link)

This is thought to mean the Owlerton and Malin Bridge areas which were not the most contentious areas if they don’t extend beyond those points up the valleys themselves. However, the position at going to press is far from certain.

On behalf of the SCT, our trustee Jim Monach is keeping an eye on what might come forward to try to safeguard the quality of the environment in those sensitive areas.

THE RAYNSFORD REVIEW – NINE PROPOSITIONS FOR A NEW PLANNING SYSTEM

Those not directly connected with planning or the built environment may have missed the fact that a major review of the planning system has been underway. Headed by the Town and Country Planning Association,  Nick Raynsford (whose previous career includes being Director of Shelter, MP and Shadow Minister for Housing and Construction) has built this report following months of research and analysis. The Interim Report was published in May.  It makes fascinating reading. 

The executive summary gives you a taster:

If there is one striking conclusion to be drawn from the work of the Raynsford Review to date, it is that the current planning system in England does not work effectively in the long-term public  interest of communities or the nation. Putting this right requires a forensic examination of the current planning system and the many myths which surround it.

(Raynsford Review Interim Report V6, vii)

Nine propositions are made, the first being that planning should be in the public interest (which currently often doesn’t happen). The report recognises that reliance on market mechanisms has been unable to deliver ‘a wide range of public interest outcomes’. The second proposition is to fill the void of what the purpose of planning is by setting its definition in legislation:

The purpose of the planning system is to positively promote the spatial organisation of land in order to achieve long-term sustainable development. In the Planning Acts, ‘sustainable development’ means managing the use, development and protection of land, the built environment and natural resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being while sustaining the potential of future generations to meet their own needs.

The propositions continue with: a powerful, people-centred planning system; commitment to meeting people’s basic needs; simplified planning law; and alignment of infrastructure across agencies. Proposition 8 grapples with the need for ‘a fairer way to share land values’, to find a constructive way out from land speculation. It looks at three options, including ‘an element of betterment taxation, as part of capital gains tax, which should be directed towards regeneration in low-demand areas.’  Lastly, it recognises the essential element of planners themselves to be pulled up from their low morale, for them to culture imaginative, creative and visionary qualities ‘not to impose upon communities, but to inspire action by offering real options for the future of places’. To achieve this, it states, reform is needed for the education, ethics and professional development of planners. And finally this ‘requires a system, supported by necessary resources, that values high-quality and inclusive outcomes as much as it values speed of performance.’

You can read critique behind the lines – more importantly, you can read how to right these ills. That is, if only the government will adopt it.

Europe’s ‘Greenest City’ is also one of its most economically successful … and a great place to live. How did it get there?

Freiburg: Sonnenschiff - Sustainable homes and employment space

Public Lecture by Prof. Wulf Daseking, Head of Urban Planning, City of Freiburg followed by discussion (Friday 16 March 4pm – 6pm Peak Lecture Theatre , Sheffield Hallam University)

Freiberg in South Germany is often cited as Europe’s ‘greenest city’ for sustainability with extensive low-energy housing, a strong commitment to use of renewable energy and very high use of public transport, walking and cycling built from a compact, city with a beautiful historic core.  It also enjoys a very strong economy based in part on solar power and an enviable quality of life which attracts talented people to study and work.  How has this been achieved and what can business and local government in the Sheffield Region learn from it?

Wulf Daseking has been the Head of Urban Planning for the City of Freiburg since 1984 and is a key figure in shaping the city. He is also an entertaining and persuasive speaker  on the social and economic benefits of planning for a low carbon future.  He will describe the experience of Freiburg and introduce the Freiburg Charter – which has distilled the lessons of its experience and how they can be relevant to others.

Representatives of the Council, Sheffield Civic Trust, Academy of Urbanism and the Universities will be invited to respond before throwing the floor open to general questions and discussion in what promises to be an inspirational and highly informative event.

Friday 16th March 4 .00 – 6.00 pm

Peak Lecture Theatre, Sheffield Hallam University, Howard St

Discussion chaired by Professor Brian Evans: Mckintosh School of Art, Glasgow

FREE ADMISSION with refreshments after.

Presented by Sheffield Urban Think-Tank:

Sponsored by: Sheffield City Council, Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, Universities of Sheffield and Hallam, Sheffield Civic Trust, South Yorkshire Forest & Integreat Plus.

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