Our heritage is one of the great assets in our city. It is what makes Sheffield unique. Modern thinking has realised there is an economic advantage in utilising historic buildings. Researchers have found that innovation, new products, new services and, new economic growth flourish best in cities possessing a good stock of historic, distinctive buildings. Sheffield has over 1,000 listed buildings.
As more shopping is done online and large retailers are finding it hard to be viable, shoppers are seeking a “Grand Day Out”. Experts agree there needs to be more special retail hubs like the Sharrow Antique Quarter and the Devonshire Quarter who have a strong historic character and a mix of retail, living accommodation, creative industry and leisure.
The danger is that we will lose assets we cannot replace
Universities attract students not purely for their academic status, but also the environment students work and live in. It is surely no coincidence that both universities own a substantial number of listed buildings.
Sheffield industries no longer trek down to London to trade fairs. The internet has produced a different way of doing business. For Sheffield to compete it needs to create a desirable environment for talented people to select Sheffield as the place to live and work.
Older buildings are greener and adaptable and create an atmosphere that encourages creativity. Businesses based in listed buildings are highly productive and make an estimated annual contribution to UK GDP of £47 billion and employ approximately 1.4 million people. Heritage is one of the biggest drivers of the UK’s tourism industry, which is estimated to be worth approximately £85.6 billion. Rather than being a drag on productivity, listed buildings attract businesses in the most productive sectors of the economy.The Castlegate district could be an exciting change in thinking where heritage and modern development are seen as complementary. The green corridor, the castle ruins and park, and the renovation of the Old Town Hall, could create a place where people want to live, work, shop, and spend their leisure time. This is the birthplace of Sheffield. It is important that the area is developed sensitively.
Sheffield needs to form a strong partnership between business, council, and community. The old attitude of measuring progress by demolishing the old and replacing with new in a belief that this makes a city marketable needs to change. There is no obvious council strategy re conservation of heritage and urban re development.