Victorian Society deeply concerned over potential Sheffield Council planning job cuts

Sheffield's Peace Gardens and Town Hall. Picture: Dean Atkins.
Sheffield's Peace Gardens and Town Hall. Picture: Dean Atkins.

A national charity which champions Victorian architecture has warned it is “deeply concerned” about potential cuts to planning department jobs at Sheffield Council.

The Victorian Society said that “Sheffield risks losing the historic fabric” of the city through the “proposed evisceration” of such services.

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It comes after it was revealed that the council is considering cutting specialist jobs, with one outlet reporting that around 40 roles are believed to be under threat in a restructure, though the authority says that the number of people affected is not yet known.

Coun Douglas Johnson, Green Party leader and City ward representative, previously said the jobs thought to be under threat include access officers, the urban design team, conservation officers, landscape architects, the dangerous structures unit, people who inspect and certify sports buildings like football stadiums, and others.

Christopher Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society, said: “These proposed cuts are deeply concerning.

“The proposed evisceration of Sheffield’s planning department is part of a wider nationwide problem.

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“If our finite historic buildings are left unprotected through cuts to the departments put in place to defend them, Sheffield risks losing the historic fabric which makes the city unique.”

Tom Taylor, a conservation adviser for the charity, added: “The industrial heritage of Sheffield is internationally important and has left a physical legacy of building types which characterise

Sheffield strongly as a place. In very important ways Sheffield’s history – especially its Victorian history – characterises its built identity.”

The society – which champions Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales – said that Sheffield’s historic buildings “are one of the great assets of the city”.

Among the jobs under threat are two part-time access officers, it has been reported, and Disability Sheffield has launched a petition to save the roles.

It comes after the council held talks with the society in May following concerns voiced in response to the authority’s planned review of the city’s 38 conservation areas.

According to the council, the review intended to ensure that Sheffield’s conservation areas “remain fit for purpose” to deliver on their original objectives and not act as a brake on development.

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But the society said it believed the council had already damaged the historic character of the city through a series of planning decisions in recent years, criticising the “plethora” of tower block schemes in or next to conservation areas that had been approved in the last decade.

Robin Hughes, of Joined Up Heritage, also earlier this month raised concerns that job cuts and delays to the council’s Local Plan could increase the city’s vulnerability to flooding after 2.8in (71.4mm) of rainfall in 24 hours caused the River Don to burst its banks.

Coun Bob Johnson, cabinet member for transport and development, also earlier this month, said they were still in a dispute with the planning department and unions over what would happen.

Sheffield Council Director of City Growth, Edward Highfield, said: "Sheffield City Council has faced austerity for many years as a result of central government reducing our funding and this has resulted in cuts to many council services, including planning. We are consulting with officers in the planning team on proposals to make the required savings placed upon us.

"We will continue to work in the best interests of everyone in these difficult times in relation to citywide planning.”