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April - A report from our recent event on Castlegate's future, the Green City strategy & the launch of 2018 Sheffield Design Awards
REPORT FROM
CASTLEGATE: FAIRYTALE OR PHEONIX?
We organised an evening of two talks at The Circle, firstly from Simon Ogden, Head of City Regeneration at Sheffield City Council, and secondly from Valerie Bayliss, Chair of the Friends of the Old Town Hall.

It was a great opportunity to welcome members old and new. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and will kick-start a series of SCT events over the next 12 months.
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.

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 has done, making the old Post Office into the Sheffield Institute of Arts. And new life is underway. The conversion of the former toilets at Blonk St Bridge will form the Two Rivers café and Tamper Coffee aims to create a Foodhall in the new Castle House redevelopment.

GI Properties nonfeasance and negligence of 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 expressed disappointment with some of the actions, or lack of action, of the SCC. I would urge interested readers to go to the websites on the Old Town Hall: https://friendsofothsheffield.wordpress.com/ and http://sheffieldoldtownhall.co.uk/

In brief, after both the council and the courts had moved out into the buildings which they currently occupy, Sheffield City Council sold the Old Town Hall to central government.

In 1995 the Department for Environment sold it to G1 Properties, an elusive organisation that has never used the building. 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 £10million.

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.

Addendum:

You may wonder why the council hasn't used its authority to serve an Urgent Works Notice or Compulsory Purchase powers. My understanding, outside of the presentation, from reading 'Stopping the Rot, a guide to enforcement action to save historic buildings'  by English Heritage, is that the force of legislation and precedent cases is strongly supportive of a Local Authority (LA) taking action. I would appreciate an authority from Historic England clarifying for me what appears, from my inexpert view, to be somewhat contradictory in their text. Firstly that, 'urgent works' are not to be proactive or preventative. They are constrained to mending damage already happening:

'The works included should be those urgently necessary at the time and should not include precautionary or preventive work that may become necessary in the future.' (5.3)

Secondly,

'Preventing deterioration and damage from getting worse. When there is evidence of a condition which is already causing deterioration and, if left unchecked, will continue to do so, then immediate action is required to prevent further deterioration, the further diminution of the building’s special architectural or historic interest, and higher repair costs. It is implicit in the legislation and guidance that urgent works provisions will apply to buildings in an advanced state of decay, requiring temporary support (eg scaffolding or propping) or shelter (eg a temporary roof).' (5.5)

In brief:

'The objective of an Urgent Works Notice is:

  • to preserve what is there

  • to prevent it from getting worse

  • to do so in the most cost-effective way'

 

And the text goes on to outline specific actions like roof and gutter works and the practicalities of servicing a notice to untraceable owners. But it seems that the problem - of our council being inactive to Stop the Rot  - lies in their trepidation around recovering expenses, which the law entitles them to do. Understandably so. From the document again:

'In some cases, the local authority may decide it is inappropriate or impractical to recover the costs because, for instance, the owner is overseas, bankrupt, a charitable body or unknown.' (5.16)

We know that the owners GI Properties are unknown, incommunicative and untraceable (and why would central government sell to them in the first instance?).

However, in this time of LAs having been stripped of so much of their income sources isn't there a case for the Secretary of State or for English Heritage to outlay the cost of urgent works and which they then should recover? Another quote:

'Section 55(1) of the Listed Buildings Act1990 allows a local authority (or the Secretary of State or English Heritage, as the case may be) that has incurred expenditure under section 54 in carrying out urgently necessary works for the preservation of a listed building to seek to recover their expenses from the building owner' (5.16)

Sheffield Design Awards 2018


The biennial Sheffield Design Awards will return for their 6th edition in 2018.
On Thursday, May 10th at the Town Hall the Lord Mayor and Master Cutler will jointly host a launch event for this year's Sheffield Design Awards.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR FREE TICKET

The awards happen in October as a result of nominations made by architects, planners, developers, artists and local residents judged by an expert panel.
To get more info about submitting, email the organising group, and read more about the Design Awards on our website.
SHEFFIELD'S GREEN CITY STRATEGY

Sheffield has begun the journey to becoming a zero-carbon city by 2050 with the launch of its bold new Green City strategy with an ambitious six-point plan and launch of a new partnership to tackle the issues.

The Green City strategy outlines how Sheffield can be a city which is more resilient to climate change, is taking action to reduce its impact on the climate and is supporting individuals and businesses to help create a clean low carbon economy.

The report is available here.

The Council now asking you to tell them about your experiences and actions to tackle climate change and behave more sustainably. They would like to know:

  1.  What you are doing already

  2.  What support you may need in order to be more sustainable, reduce your energy usage and carbon emissions

  3.  Your priorities for each area of the Green City strategy

Click here to take part in the short survey

Feel free to complete as much or as little of the survey as you like. The survey closes on Tuesday 29 May 2018.


Sheffield Civic Trust is now officially on Instagram! Come on over and follow us @sheffcivictrust - what better way to stay connected with the Trust than through the images and event information we will be sharing with you in 2018! 

Feel free to use the hashtag #sheffcivictrust on your photos when you’re out & about in the city centre and surrounding areas - be sure to tag us at @sheffcivictrust and we’ll re-post the best ones! We look forward to seeing you on there!
Copyright © 2018 Sheffield Civic Trust, All rights reserved.


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