Never has Heritage been so much under threat than it is now. Lancashire’s museums collapsing under the cuts and a major museum in North East England in Jarrow closing its doors. Libraries have closed in every county and what Museums and Galleries there are left survive by using unpaid volunteers and staff on short term casual contracts. The Tourism budget was abandoned in 2010 when the regional developments were closed. But the threat is even more than that. It comes from the shedload of planning laws in the last few years and cash strapped councils that lack the ammunition to strike back.
There is the possible free for all, that essentially says you can ignore previous and existing planning laws, if you are creating new houses or lots of jobs. Sounds great, but planning laws are there to protect our heritage and our environment. Green spaces are essential to keep down pollution and our heritage buildings are part of a places unique selling points to incoming investors. It is also more environmentally friendly to adapt what we have, than knock down and rebuild in most cases. Councils already are often letting through planning permission because they lack the finance to set up a challenge in the courts when the developer puts in an appeal. Now the Governments says it may intervene and over-rule local planning decisions.
In Sheffield every new development plan talks of hundreds if not thousands of jobs being created but where do these figures come from? Generally figures come from looking at other cities of similar size who did same thing and created lot of jobs. However as we have no real data on Sheffield to make comparisons. In short we don’t know how much impact following another city’s plan will have on the economic and environmental and community life of the city.
Many new retail developments have failed because they have not taken into account the local retail habits and the changes in the National market. This Christmas while many National companies were complaining of the drop in sales Sheffield’s Independent retailers were saying their sales were at an all time high. So shouldn’t they be the businesses we are encouraging?
For centuries the North has been told they are philistines, uncultured, and backwards. Northern Culture has been ridiculed and ignored despite the facts there has been and are composers, artists, innovators, philosophers, musicians, poets and writers. Outsiders from abroad actually know this and find Northern Culture fascinating. Cultural Heritage is worth Billions to our National economy. Far from demolishing our old buildings and closing our Museums we should be promoting our uniqueness and some of the great scenery all around us.
It is the older buildings that are becoming space for financial, legal, and creative companies who are relocating from expensive London offices, because they like the Heritage and the green spaces in Sheffield. They don’t want a miniature London they want somewhere different.
So want to join the Fight back? Join the Sheffield Heritage Network, or if not from Sheffield link with us via our websites or Facebook page. Lets form networks across the North.
Next Sheffield Heritage Networking event 25th February at Crookes Social Club http://www.crookessocial.co.uk 7pm -9.30pm