Trees are Heritage Too.

A ‘sustainable city’ is organized so as to enable all its citizens to meet their own needs and to enhance their well-being without damaging the natural world or endangering the living conditions of other people, now or in the future. (Girardet 1999)Ecclesall Woods

Once Rustlings Road was farmland.  The Victorians and Edwardian that built much of our tree-lined roads could have easily left out the trees, and said there is plenty parks and woodlands,  but they knew the importance of greening up the streets.  Although Sheffield was undoubtedly a smoke filled, polluted place, the city fathers were well aware that there needed to be more greenery and more clean open spaces.  That is why Sheffield at the moment has a bigger number of trees lining our streets than  other cities,  but that is surely not a good reason for being blasé about such things?

 photo from Picture Sheffield

Rustlings Road old photo from Picture Sheffield

Sheffield is lucky that the history and the geography of the area has resulted in the preservation of so many ancient woodlands and the determination of people like Mark Firth who donated and pushed the council to buy land for public parks. Even though, with the opening of Endcliffe parks one writer to the paper said that “perhaps we have enough parks now” the wise people of Sheffield continued in making parks that everyone could have access to.  But at the same time they planted the trees and continued to do so for over 50 years so for instance at the bottom of  Meersbrook Park are the Victorian trees and at the top is  the Hollythorpe estate where Laver Brothers planted trees  when they built the housing estate in the 1930s. And so it is throughout a large part of the city .

view from Top of Meersbrook Park

view from Top of Meersbrook Park

“One tree that shades your home in the city will also save fossil fuel, cutting CO2 buildup as much as 15 forest trees.”

We are the city of the great outdoors despite the awful traffic and the steep hills. Sheffield is also the city with the lowest crime rate and down as the happiest. It is now all under threat. Our way of life. Our happiness and the Livability in our city and that which makes Sheffield Sheffield.

In a 2001 study in Chicago there were dramatically fewer occurrences of crime against both people and property in apartment buildings surrounded by trees and greenery than in nearby identical apartments that were surrounded by barren land. Buildings with high levels of greenery had  56 percent fewer violent crimes.  Greenery lowers crime  greenery helps people to relax and renew, reducing aggression.

Rivelin Valley

As the trees decrease in Sheffield there is also the fact that studies have found that tree cover can keep a city cooler by up to  12°F, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapour into the air through their leaves. In Los Angeles they found a correlation between a rise in average temperatures in 14c,  and the decline in tree coverage.

“Higher temperatures react more with sunlight and car exhaust fumes to produce the poisonous gas ozone. This can reach dangerous levels in some larger cities. Some people are worried that this problem will increase, with other cities around the country creating their own heat islands as they develop their business and residential areas.”  (BBC)

Old photo Dore Picture Sheffield

Old photo Dore Picture Sheffield

“Urban greenspace, from street trees, to private gardens, to city parks, provides vital ecosystem services which become even more critical under climate change. The creative use  of the green infrastructure is one of the most promising opportunities for adaptation as it provides other social, economic and environmental benefits. It is essential that the green infrastructure is strategically planned. This needs to be reflected in relevant policies and practice from the national to the local and neighbourhood level. The planning system is crucial in ensuring adaptation to climate change via the green infrastructure, but other policies, plans and programmes are also important .” (Manchester University)

“A 2008 study by researchers at Columbia University found that more trees in urban neighborhoods correlate with a lower incidence of asthma”

Research in the UK on the impact of installing a kerbside line of young birch trees demonstrated more than 50% reductions in measured Particulate Matter (PM) levels inside those houses screened by the temporary tree line. The researchers concluded that “the efficacy of roadside trees for mitigation of PM health hazard might be seriously underestimated in some current atmospheric models.”  (Lancaster University)

Trees can intercept between 7 percent and 22 percent of storm water runoff from impermeable surfaces.”

There has been many natural floods in Sheffield too.

There has been many natural floods in Sheffield too.

Track Sheffield’s history and there is a long history of flooding in the city over 250 years at least. It has lessened in some areas. Rustlings Road was so called because of the marshy area round the Porter. There is still a tendency to flood round there. How much worse would it be if the trees who feed on the little tributaries that once ran into the Porter are removed ?

But even if there wasn’t the pollution and flooding issues in Sheffield there are other issues both environmental and historic.  These are historic streets built by our city fathers in a bid to improve the city and create houses with pleasant streets to walk in. Take the trees away and you remove a historic vista, and 100 year old trees that will take a 100 years to bring back that view  if the saplings actually survive the first few years.

Ecclesall Woods


Manchester University ‘ADAPTATION STRATEGIES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT’ Draft final report to the National Steering Group John Handley and Jeremy Carter November 2006  How Trees can retain Storm water Runoff$FILE/eng-casefortrees.pdf

Barbara A. Maher , Imad A. M. Ahmed , Brian Davison , Vassil Karloukovski , and Robert Clarke Centre for Environmental Magnetism & Palaeomagnetism, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University; Impact of Roadside Tree Lines on Indoor Concentrations of Traffic-Derived Particulate Matter;


The economics of reuse vs demolition and rebuild

In essence, neglecting to take into account the economic value of cultural heritage conservation and the full costs and benefits of policies, regulations, and projects with cultural components can lead to sub-optimal allocation of resources in the sector, investment failure, and continuous degradation of the world’s cultural assets.  Economic Valuation of Cultural Heritage: Evidence and Prospects By Susana Mourato and Massimiliano Mazzanti

I suppose like many my first memories of a remarkable heritage building was being taken to see one by a family member. In my case it was Penrith castle with my Grandfather and playing among the ruins and seeing the remains of the huge fireplace are memories that have stayed with me. Hard to say why Heritage is important but I am certainly not alone in my feelings. Heritage evokes an emotional response in a wide variety of people and makes historic buildings an economic asset as well as a community asset. However there is a third factor that should be taken into account and that is the green aspect of historic buildings.

Research suggests that sustainable maintenance and refurbishment of historic buildings uses 23% less energy than new construction. Figures given by several researchers suggest that it will take between 40 and 65 years for a green and energy-efficient building to recover the energy and resources lost in the demolition of an historic building, and that demolition waste can make between a quarter to a third of all landfill.

Demolition Jessop

Reducing carbon emissions associated with the built environment means reducing the emissions associated with the whole lifecycle of buildings.  It is not necessary to demolish a building and replace it to have a greener building. Refurbishment and retrofitting of buildings, including insulation, replacing windows and boilers, heating networks, and installing renewable energy, can improve the performance of existing buildings to near-new standards.

We have two prime examples of retrofitting of listed buildings in Sheffield now, Sheffield Cathedral has a more energy efficient heating system, and the Lyceum Theatre has installed a wide range of energy saving measures.

Lyceum Theatre. Rescued from demolition by the public. Award winning productions

Lyceum Theatre. Rescued from demolition by the public. Award winning productions

If you demolish an old building, even if you leave the façade, the chances are that it will take at least 12 months to rebuild and be ready for occupation. If you retrofit you can do some things while the people are resident and others in a matter of days. You don’t need a lot of machinery or disruption of adjoining businesses and you are more likely to be using local contractors to do the work.

Broom Hall

Broom Hall

But surely retailers and businesses want new modern buildings? Evidence would suggest quite a sizeable number prefer the character of an older building and other research suggests that it is the uniqueness and historic character of a city that brings in the type of investor who also moves into the city to live so keeping the investment within the local economy. Economists call it Livability.

Sheffield hosts the biggest entrepreneur conference in the UK  but we are not selling our city to the delegates in the best way we could. We do not play to our strengths.

Yes we are a great outdoor city with  ancient woodlands, parks and part of the National Park within our boundaries but if you are going to set up a business are they the factors that would sway you to choose Sheffield?

Sheffield has some great historic buildings available. Research has shown that new startup businesses like the old works buildings as they are cheap, adaptable and present an image of stability.  The many cutlery factories have been proved by, Albyn, Portland, Harland, and Stag, and APG, to be great for a wide range of creative people who have found the arrangement of workshops around a central courtyard perfect for making a creative hub where ideas are exchanged.

Portland Works. cutlery works with workshops. Now community owned. Birthplace of Stainless Steel Cutlery

Portland Works. cutlery works with workshops. Now community owned. Birthplace of Stainless Steel Cutlery

Creative Industry thrives in older, mixed-use neighbourhoods.  Older smaller buildings house  significantly greater concentrations of creative jobs per square foot of commercial space. Media production businesses, software publishers, and performing arts companies can be found in areas that have smaller-scaled   historic fabric.

Commercial and mixed use districts with a mix of old and new buildings have a significantly higher proportion of non chain restaurants and retailers and also a significantly higher proportion of jobs in small businesses. These areas also have significantly more jobs per commercial square foot.

From a retailer’s point of view Sheffield has also a wide range of old chapels, banks and Georgian shops  and pubs that bring a great character that only an older building can bring. Very few Independent traders or small businesses use new buildings as besides it being cheaper and more individual it is also easier to fit in with the existing community.  The amazing Antiques Quarter uses a wide range of old buildings. It wouldn’t look the same if all the buildings were brand new.

Devonshire street. Its viability now under threat

Devonshire street. Its viability now under threat

Research on the economic impact of the historic environment for Heritage Counts 2010 found that over 90% of respondents in case study areas agreed or strongly agreed that investment in their local historic environment made the area a better place in which to live, work, visit or operate a business.

Furthermore case studies in five areas indicated that 25% of businesses agreed or strongly agreed that heritage was an important factor affecting the decisions of businesses to locate in the area. In terms of influence, heritage ranked equal with road access as a determinant of business location

Across the UK central urban living is increasing and visiting the town centre regularly for retail purchases decreasing. Large shopping centres are quite possibly going to become the dinosaur that Sheffield Markets had become due to changing retail habits. Judging retail by floor space when many large businesses sell online is outmoded thinking. The customer is either local or comes seeking a unique shopping experience with leisure catering in that mix. Certainly in Sheffield a high number of shoppers in the city centre either come on foot or by public transport.

Studies elsewhere have found that investment in the older more distinctive buildings has had a knock on effect in the area. Inhabitants have had a stronger sense of local pride and say they also feel safer. A report by IPSOS MORI, into public perceptions of beauty, shows the built and natural environment play an important part in how people view the places they live. A striking area of consensus in the findings was in the value people placed on old versus new buildings. Across all age groups, older buildings were favoured as being ‘more beautiful’. The most common reason people gave was that older buildings conveyed a sense of longevity and grandeur.

The patchy mainly community based restoration of Sheffield’s heritage means that presenting a uniform and more commercial image of Sheffield’s heritage is difficult. Much of what we have in Sheffield is of worldwide significance historically and we need to look at ways that we can present this which would bring in tourism and investment. As many of the older significant buildings are in deprived low income areas, it could bring in more jobs and boost the local economy.

Manor Lodge

Manor Lodge

The value of heritage tourism is expected to increase between 2013 and 2025, as the economic output in tourism is expected to rise from £58 billion (4.1% of the UK economy) to £119 billion (4.6% of the UK economy), with the number of tourism jobs rising from 1.75 million jobs to 2.10 million jobs over the same period. Sheffield has no designated councillor or officer responsible for tourism or indeed and designated funding for tourism. Could this be why Sheffield performs badly despite the significant rise in Yorkshire Tourism. It is true that the numbers of people attending festivals has increased rapidly but mid week visitors are in short supply and mainly on business. It is Tourists in particular (esp older tourists known as the Grey Pound) who could bring long lasting jobs and help revitalise the retail hubs within the city more than any rebuilding of the city centre.

These are all strong reasons as to why Sheffield Council  needs to put our old buildings at the head of regeneration plans not as an afterthought or an add on. Why we need to group together all the people who think keeping our old buildings is important. That way we turn up the volume.


The Role of Historic Buildings in Urban regeneration. Eleventh report of Session 2003-2004 Volume 1 report. House of Commons ODPM: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Region’s Committee.       Heritage Counts 2014

Heritage Lottery Funding – strategic framework 2013-2018 A lasting difference for Heritage and people.

Lose or Reuse. Managing Heritage sustainability.  by Lydia Wilson published 2007 Ulster Architectural Heritage Society 66 Donegal Pass, Belfast B17 1BU

New Ideas need Old Buildings Heritage Lottery Fund. April 2013.

Older smaller Better measuring how the character of buildings and blocks influence urban vitality May 2014    USA

Reusing existing buildings towards sustainable regeneration. School of architecture: Place Culture and Identity Group working paper. Dr. Aylin Orbasli, BArch DPhil March 2008 Oxford Brookes University

Energy Costs in an Old House: Balancing Preservation and Energy Efficiency by Sally Zimmerman, Preservation Specialist Historic Homeowner Membership Program. Historic New England Sept 2008

Demolition or refurbishment of Social Housing? A review of the evidence 27th Oct 2014 UCL Urban Lab and Engineering Exchange for Just Space and the London Tenants Federation

Renovate or Replace? The case for restoring and reusing older school buildings.  published by Save Our Land, Save Our Towns Inc. The Pennsylvania Historic Schools Task Force.

The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse a report by Preservation Green Lab, National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Values and Benefits of heritage. A research view January 2015 compiled by the Heritage Lottery Fund Strategy and Development Department Gareth Maaer/Amelia Robinson  NBS strategy for low emission refurbishment.  extract from The Handbook of Sustainable Refurbishment: Non-Domestic Buildings by Nick V. Baker

The economic Power of Heritage and Place. How historic Preservation is building a sustainable Future in Colarado Oct 2011