Why is Sheffield’s new local plan so dull?
From river parkways and Stalinist civic centres to bland language and housing targets
Good afternoon members — and welcome to Thursday’s Tribune.
How do you plan a city? For centuries, urban areas developed in the higgledy-piggledy way they always had. However, after Georges-Eugène Haussmann redesigned Paris in the mid-19th century, cities all over the world attempted to follow suit. The first major scheme to plan out Sheffield was produced in 1924 by Sir Patrick Abercrombie, the academic widely considered the father of town planning in the UK. Now, as the city digests the latest ideas for how Sheffield will develop over the next 15 years, Simon Ogden, who worked in the council’s planning department for 36 years, looks back at those visionary plans and asks why our current local plan is so hard to engage with and…boring?
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🏛️ Sheffield Museums’ annual energy bill is due to double to £505,000 from April, the BBC report. Chief executive Kim Streets told BBC Radio Sheffield that their costs are so high because they must keep many artefacts at very specific humidity levels and temperatures. She added the only thing stopping their bill quadrupling was the government’s “high intensity” discount, but that even with this extra help, half a million pounds was “still a big number”.
⚖️ The Sheffield probation service has scored just one point out of a possible 27 in its latest inspection, Yorkshire Live report. Labelling the service inadequate, the chief inspector of probation said that while high vacancy and sickness rates, unmanageable caseloads and staff leaving for careers elsewhere were common to all probation services, keeping people safe was the Sheffield service’s weakest area of practice. “This cannot continue,” he added.
📽️ A lovely piece in The Independent about Sheffield cinephile who makes remarkably accurate miniature replicas of scenes from Hollywood movies using only household items. Visual artist Steve Berry, 43, started making them with Lego during the first Covid lockdown, and has now made more than 1,600 scenes. You can see Steve’s amazing creations for yourself on his Twitter and Instagram sites, where his work has attracted thousands of followers.
Things to do
🏺 The Sheffield Ceramics Festival returns to the city this weekend for its eighth year. More than 50 ceramic artists, potters and sculptors will be exhibiting and selling their work at Kelham Island Museum, with all profits going to charities including De Paul, an organisation which works with homeless young people. The festival is open on Saturday, 1 April from 10am-5pm and on Sunday, 2 April from 11am-4pm. Admission is £2 (16 and under go free).
🖼️ Opening on Saturday, 1 April is Contrafibularities, an exhibition of “very contemporary painting” at Fronteer Gallery. The free group exhibition has been curated by Sheffield-based painter Sean Williams, and features work by 24 artists from both here in the Steel City and across the UK, including Park Hill painter Mandy Payne. Fronteer, which used to be based on Exchange Street but moved to new premises in Orchard Square this year, is open Tues-Sat from 11am-3pm.
🎛️ At Sidney and Matilda on Saturday night, DJ Greg Wilson will be presenting a special night in support of his new book, Discotheque Archives, which explores the pre-rave era of dance music, from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. Wilson’s book has a section all about the legendary Sheffield nightclub Jive Turkey, whose promoter and resident DJ Winston Hazel will be appearing on the night. Now Then have a nice preview piece about the night here.
Why is Sheffield’s new local plan so dull?
By Simon Ogden
“As compared to the finite quality of an ornamental park of more or less square shape, there is a feeling of movement in a continuous park strip; the one, as a squirrel in its cage, the human being walks round and round: in the other he is led onwards until the open country is reached. Doubtless the squirrel enjoys its kinetic exercise, but there would seem to be more potential pleasure in progressive locomotion.”
Thus the Abercrombie Plan of 1924, Sheffield’s first venture into the infant discipline of town planning, introduces one of its distinctive proposals — the River Parkway. It’s a concept which is close to my heart and which has helped define many of the more favoured parts of the city including the Rivelin, Loxley, Upper Porter and Sheaf valleys. Abercrombie’s plan also set out ambitious plans to clear the Victorian slums and create new social housing estates away from Sheffield’s smoke-choked valleys as well as one of the first proposals for a Green Belt.