Northern Lights: '˜I hope we become more proud of the city's heritage and preserve it'

My wish for 2019 is that Sheffield will see the light and make an effort to preserve what little heritage we have left.

Thursday, 20th December 2018, 3:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th December 2018, 3:48 pm
The Old Coroners Court on Nursery Street

The Heart of the City 2 is the last chance for us to prove to the world that we value our Victorian architecture and will not carelessly destroy it as we have done in the past.

Things are not looking good however and it looks like we shall be losing the historic 1883 Athol Hotel despite some remarkable things about its previous history being uncovered.

Apart from the fact that it was the first piece in the jigsaw of Pinstone Street's Victorian development, its links to football have astounded many people and it is a prime candidate for a blue plaque but such plaques are difficult to attach to a pile of rubble.

The stretch from the Citadel to the Pepperpot is intact and untouched and to break it up would be a tragedy.

Why has Sheffield not made more of the fact that we are the home of football? The world's oldest club, Sheffield FC, was formed here in 1857 as well many of the original rules.

Any other city would have founded a football museum years ago and we had many buildings which would have served admirably but have been swept away in the name of '˜progress'.

One survivor (so far) which would be an ideal candidate is the 1808 Old Town Hall on Waingate. Sadly water ingress and generations of pigeons have wreaked their respective havoc and the interior has been virtually lost.

Another 2019 wish would be the creation of the Castlegate Conservation Area which would bring the Old Coroner's Court on Nursery Street into the safety net.

The Area should also be extended all the way up to the Wicker Arches to give some protection to the pubs and interesting buildings which are dotted along The Wicker. One or two are already Listed but many could so easily be lost if something is not done swiftly.

Not all developers are in it for the money, but some for the glory or vanity angle. (HS2 anyone?) One such project which has left conservationists smarting is the '˜in your face' Diamond Building.

You will recall the long High Court battle to save the Grade II listed Edwardian block of the Jessop Hospital on whose site it stands. One of the main reasons given for demolition was to create five per cent more space but the interior has vast open spaces and students are struggling to find room to study.

The resulting £81m replacement eyesore was beset with problems from the start and had more snags than a market-stall pair of tights. It is not popular with students or lecturers and a petition stated that it is '˜one of the worst designed buildings on campus'.

The universities are not always the bad guys however and Hallam University must be congratulated on their wonderful restoration of the General Post Office in Fitzalan Square which proves what can be done when someone puts their mind to it.

An even better example of this policy may be found just across the Channel especially in Ypres which was totally devastated in the Great War, but this is difficult to believe when looking at before and after photographs of the city centre.

The prominent Cloth Hall looks as though it has been there forever but appearances can be deceptive and it must be one of the best restorations that I have ever seen.

What a contrast to Sheffield which not only closes down its Tourist Information Office but also closes two of its major tourist attractions on what are normally busy family days. i.e. Kelham Island Museum '“ closed Fridays and Saturdays - and Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet '“ closed Fridays.

You couldn't make it up. At the last count we had three or four more new hotels proposed for the city centre. Are these hotel operators not aware of council indifference towards tourism?

The HoC2 scheme will create more dreadful tower blocks and all the council seems to see is lots of juicy rates revenue.

This was the thinking behind the nodding through of the Devonshire Street scheme in which Sheffield's earliest block of shops, dating back to the 1830s, will be swept away and replaced by a development. The 20,000 signature petition against the scheme was totally ignored and once the terrace has gone, it's gone. How sad.

I recently spoke to someone who went to Japan on business and the immediate response to the name Sheffield was '“ ah, that's where they destroy the trees. Let's not allow 2019 to be the year when the same comments are made about our buildings.