Today I went to a workshop at Sheffield University. The title of the workshop was “What do urban rivers mean in the 21st century. We heard of a rivers in India and Portugal and throughout Europe. We then went on to explore what our urban rivers mean to us.
Quite possibly the most interesting conversations was with River management and local voluntary groups. The complaints may start from a different angle from those who are looking to preserve old buildings or woodlands or parks but the complaints are the same.
There were aspects I hadn’t thought of, I admit. The Don, Porter Brook, and the Rother are
all names for muddy brown waters. Not because of pollution but because of the peaty moorland they come from. One River manager said that the breaking up of weirs and other modern river management had cut down the variety of fish and amphibians that preferred the darker water. For rivers to be clean it doesn’t mean they have to be transparent. It brought into focus that not only had we to look at the uniqueness of our buildings and our Green Spaces how important it is also that we talk with those who know about what is needed to preserve the ecology of our waterways.
If the planners allow high buildings by the river they could cut the light to the water as well as make the area busier and nosier. Too much activity in some areas will scare away the wildlife. We need areas of calm the River manager said.
What we want, they all said is for a discussion with all interested groups, heritage, developers, ecologists, communities, and the Council. “Have you spoke to any councillors?” I asked . “We’ve tried.” they said but no one’s prepared to listen.” And there is where we all share the same problem. There is no debate, or discussion with the Council. No consultation.
Whatever decision the Council makes re development matters to the city as a whole. Yet decisions are made without considering all aspects. As the River manager said you can’t just divert a river because its looks better for the houses by the waterside, there will be a knock on effect elsewhere.
Likewise if you build a new shiny shopping centre it is more than likely you will drain the shopping areas nearby as Meadowhall has done in the past. If more people come from Tinsley Stocksbridge Dore Tortley whatever to shop in the city centre that means more traffic and more pollution. If we shift people into housing in the city the pollution will go down as fewer people will need to use cars or busses. We could build new inner city communities who would need shops and would also work locally. We would have a lively vibrant centre that would not shut down at 6pm.
But our Council is determined to sell our city centre to a National developer to make a city centre like every other city ripping out our heritage and throwing it on the rubbish heap, and at the end of it the outside developer will keep all the profits and control our city centre. If any of the backers pull out we will be left with a big hole in the middle of the city that we have no control over and gaps in the nearby Fargate and the Moor as shops either move there or close down. How will that improve our city? We need to talk and yet no one is really listening.
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.
http://hc.historicengland.org.uk/National-Report/ 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.