On 25 November 2019, the CBA wrote the following letter to Sheffield City Council to express our concern at draft restructuring proposals in their planing department.
For the attention of:
Chief Executive: John Mothersole
Councillor Julie Dore: Leader of the Council
Councillor Bob Johnson: Cabinet Member for Transport and Development.
Sheffield City Council
Copy to: Trevor Mitchell, Historic England, Dinah Saich: South Yorkshire Archaeology Service
25th November 2019
Dear Chief Executive Mothersole; Cllrs Dore and Johnson,
We are extremely concerned about draft restructuring proposals that may involve the loss of urban designers, conservation officers, landscape designers and other specialist advisers as reported in The Star newspaper on 15th November 2019.
Whilst the CBA is very aware of the financial pressures facing local government, and the need for prudence, we consider that the loss of specialist advisers within your planning department would be a hugely damaging and retrograde step, as well as proving to be a false economy for the City and its residents.
The CBA is one of six National Amenity Societies that are statutorily consulted on Listed Building Consent and Full Planning applications that involve demolition or partial demolition of designated heritage assets including within Conservation Areas. Consequently we have a significant experience in examining development proposals from around the Country. We believe that the most effective and transformational urban developments involving designated and non-designated heritage assets including historic townscapes and cityscapes are those which benefit from in-house specialist advisers.
Section 16 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2019 (NPPF) is clear, “Heritage assets range from sites and buildings of local historic value to those of the highest significance, such as World Heritage Sites which are internationally recognised to be of Outstanding Universal Value. These assets are an irreplaceable resource and should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of existing and future generations.” (Paragraph 184).
Further on, the NPPF requires that, “Local planning authorities should identify and assess the particular significance of any heritage asset that may be affected by a proposal (including by development affecting the setting of a heritage asset) taking account of the available evidence and any necessary expertise. They should take this into account when considering the impact of a proposal on a heritage asset, to avoid or minimise any conflict between the heritage asset’s conservation and any aspect of the proposal.” (Paragraph 190).
It is difficult for the CBA to see how Sheffield City Council can set about addressing the requirements of Section 16 of the NPPF and their obligations under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 without recourse to in-house specialist advisers to assess the validity of Application details.
Sheffield is a fascinating place with a considerable inherited cityscape that incorporates exceptional buildings and spaces, some of which are contemporary and have benefited from the work of in-house specialists over many years and decades. With current pressures on our High Streets and an enhanced interest in placemaking and place shaping, it is with regret that we note Sheffield City Council’s proposals to cut the current staff levels in the Planning Department.
The CBA therefore adds its voice to request Sheffield City Council re-think this ill-considered proposal.
Dr Mike Heyworth MBE MCIfA
Council for British Archaeology