Telegraph Voices: What must be done to make the most of Sheffield’s gateways?

Sheffield Stock pic taken from roof of Wilkos River Don towards Wicker Arches
Sheffield Stock pic taken from roof of Wilkos River Don towards Wicker Arches

Joined-up heritage strategy will help tell Sheffield’s story

Jon Bradley, chairman of Joined UP Heritage Sheffield

Historically, gateways are places that mark identity – step through here and you are here on our terms, you become our guest.

Gateways control that identity, they protect the business that sustains that identity, they welcome those who come to trade in whatever way, they designate pride and status, they send you forth knowing and bearing the values of the city you have left.

Riding into Sheffield today along one of our gateway routes, north, south, east or west, by truck, train, car, bike or on foot what will you see and experience that tells you about our city’s identity today?

What do these routes tell you about the ever-evolving heritage that is the foundation of Sheffield’s identity?

The rivers you cross in Penistone Road, Attercliffe Road or Chesterfield Road - do they inspire you to imagine the roots of industry driven by wheels and forges fuelled by timber cut from the woods that fringed these rivers and roads and grew right up to the old town gates – Fargate, West Bar.

Entering the city centre, do you picture the triumphal arches through which Queen Victoria passed when she opened the New Town Hall in 1897?

Travelling through Brightside and Attercliffe and looking at the shiny new walls of Meadowhall, Ikea and the Olympic Legacy Park, what would you know about the kingfishers, salmon and otters returning to waters once coloured by whatever was pouring out from the factories upstream, the very factories shaping Sheffield’s reputation, prosperity and spirit of resilience?

Today, Sheffield is a green city, an outdoor city, a city transforming itself for the now and the future.

This kind of adventure has always been part of our heritage, our self-image. Joining up our heritage with this transformation, creating visibility, understanding and valuing what we’ve had, how we’ve got here historically, where you can see and experience this will help tell that gateway welcome story in a much richer way.

* Joined Up Heritage Sheffield will launch a strategy to conserve and promote the city’s heritage during a two- day conference at Sheffield Hallam University on October 13 and 14.

Technology can ease traffic and air pollution - Cabinet member for transport Jack Scott

Sheffield is an exciting, vibrant and growing city.

One of the consequences of this growth is often more traffic and congestion and Sheffield is no exception. It’s vital we make sure that transport routes in to and out of our great city are attractive, well-maintained, clear of congestion and portray Sheffield as the brilliant and modern city we know it is.

In Sheffield, our unique geography and hills presents an extra challenge for transport in and out of the city, because there are only so many routes we can build roads and railways on – many of these passable routes were first spotted by the Romans and we still use them today.

Traffic and routes in to Sheffield wax and wane throughout the day. It is easy to get on Penistone Road going out of the city in the morning but very hard at 5pm. So in the future, ‘smart roads’, such as the reversible lanes on Queens Road, can play a big role in increasing road capacity at peak times on key routes.

New technology in public transport - like the UK’s first tram-trains we launched recently - can also play a big role. When this is complete, we will see thousands of shoppers and commuters moving between Sheffield and Rotherham every morning without having to go near the Parkway or M1, significantly reducing congestion and traffic, so everyone wins.

In the longer term, we want to extend this exciting new technology to other parts of Sheffield and will be starting discussions about this in the next few months.

The council also has a vision for Sheffield as the fairest city in the country. But we know that you can’t have social justice or economic opportunity for all without environmental fairness as well. This means we need to work together to tackle poor air quality, which is responsible for around 500 premature deaths per year in Sheffield.

The national government isn’t showing any leadership or vision in this area, so we’ll be starting a renewed discussion about the role we all have in reducing dangerous air in the near future.

I hope as many people as possible get involved in this and help us to make Sheffield’s routes in and out of our brilliant city as attractive, well-maintained, clear of congestion and clean as possible.

Our rich nature can make routes better - Liz Ballard, Chief executive of Sheffield and rotherham wildlife trust

Developing ‘gateways’ in to the city is a great idea. They could really make a statement about Sheffield and Sheffielders – who we are and what we stand for.

The two cooling towers were really iconic. Everyone knew where they were on the M1 when these colossal structures appeared on the horizon.

It will be great to see a new ‘landmark’ in this area and Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust are especially keen to ensure that Blackburn Meadows Nature Reserve, right next to the M1, is recognised as a part of a gateway in this area, alongside the proposed Art Project and Meadowhall extension. Breeding lapwing in view of the M1 is an amazing story for Sheffield to tell.

We would also like to see gateways used to promote the natural environment of the city. There are significant routes with fairly boring, green deserts bringing people into the city – patches of grass along road verges that offer little to people or nature. What about making some of these fantastic ‘urban meadows’ – using perennial plants, local to Sheffield that support our local insects and birds? They would look great and support other wildlife corridors - what if the Parkway was a local nature reserve?

The arches on the Wicker still carry trains, but we only need to look to the New York High Line for inspiration on what can be done with ‘redundant’ railways to turn them in to real assets that are a statement about what we want people to think about us and our city.

Areas around the station also offer great potential – the amphitheatre is a good start but there is the opportunity to think about the first impression as people arrive on the train and walk out in to the city - would they realise they are so close to important international moorland, or in a city of rivers, with otters nearby?

Sheffield has a rich natural environment – gateways would be a great way to celebrate it.

Make gateways shiny and shout about city - David Slater, Spaces Sheffield director

I’m no Michael Palin but I like to travel. Dunkirk, Le Touquet, Lyons, Grenoble, Nimes, Cannes, Aix en, Provence, Marseilles, St Tropez, Toulouse and Perpignan - been to all of em.

I would recommend travelling with your eyes open if you want to learn about what goes on in towns and cities in Europe.

For me the gateways to any village, town or city speak volumes about the place and the people who live there.

French villages are particularly good at ‘bienvenue’. Normally you will at least get an excellent floral display. In France a big brown sign with a pictorial reference will entice you off the motorway.

Most towns and cities in the world are catching on. US towns will entice you to the world’s biggest this or that. Seaside towns in the UK are also getting the drift. ‘Come and eat Cromer crab’, says the sign – so let’s have the world’s biggest knife and fork or a big brown sign with a picture of Mary Queen of Scots and Sheffield Castle. It’s only marketing.

Barcelona has a team of street cleaners dedicated to cleaning gateways into the centre. That’s what we need. Sheffield is streets behind when it comes to cleaning, but let’s leave that to the voters next time round and sees if they can force change.

Gateways are very important. Sheffield can learn a lot from other places. We have five major gateways and they should all be welcoming, clean and vibrant – the city centre jewel in the crown

So Sheffield, spare no expense. Start with Wicker arches – light them up and put a sculpture park in front of them. Open up a metro rail line.

Then move down the canal and river and make sure that every building is clean and tidy, every open space is attractive and accessible – no sex shops, no scrap yards, no dereliction, no run down sites.

Shout out that Sheffield is the place to want to be because we ooze success/

Make the gateways to Sheffield shiny.

* Related article: Special Report: What can we do to improve our gateways?