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Heritage Commission Report 2013/14

A summary taken from the Heritage Technical Paper produced as evidence for the (now superseded) Joint Local Plan

4.6  As a result of key heritage stakeholders such as the then English Heritage (now Historic England) and the Heritage Lottery Fund seeking clarity from Stoke-on-Trent City Council with regard to Stoke’s strategic heritage approach for the city, Stoke-on-Trent City Council convened a Heritage Commission (2013/14), a consultation involving the community, developers and potential stakeholders relating to the heritage of Stoke-on-Trent. The Council has worked with Historic England, one of the Commissioners, and Urban Vision North Staffordshire to examine the evidence submitted to the Commission and to make recommendations that reflect the findings in the following policy paper. The key findings of the Stoke-on-Trent Heritage Commission were:
  • “Perceptions regarding the nature and extent of the City’s Heritage are not accurate.
  • The Potteries can be regarded as the world centre for ceramics but not enough has been made of this.
  • Stoke-on-Trent has a lower number of Heritage Assets.
  • The Council needs to embed strategies for heritage in the new Local Plan.
  • Community involvement in the City’s Heritage is missing; the Council cannot deliver this alone.”

4.7  Challenges identified in the report:

  • “there is widespread duplication of civic buildings and with its economic decline or changes in shopping and social patterns, some redundancy for libraries, churches, chapels, town halls, and markets.”
  • “Historically the pottery industry developed within and alongside residential areas and town centres throughout the present city area rather than being concentrated on particular areas. With the decline of the pottery industry, there are many redundant and cleared sites, some of them very large, scattered throughout the centres, civic areas and along principal transport corridors. Whilst the majority of these are not historic assets, the extent of redundancy and the resultant air of dereliction poses great challenges both for the public image of the city as well in seeking to identify new users.”
  • “The City does not have a large number of listed buildings but of these a small number are very large. Often their principal significance is historic rather than purely architectural. Most of these pottery buildings are in poor state of repair because they have not been maintained in decades, even when they were in production use. Some of them were not built from high quality materials. The city’s most iconic listed building, the bottle oven, was built for a short life; it has no resistance to weather penetration when not being fired (as none have for over 50 years) and has no commercial value today because of its lack of ready adaptability.”
4.8  There were a number of factors and issues identified during the Commission. The report identifies a number of main areas of agreement reached during the process:
  • “The economic, heritage and cultural potential of the buildings that remain is not being fulfilled and should be exploited.
  • There is clearly a duplication of building type, ranging from redundant places of worship to Town Halls leading to too little demand and surplus space.
  • Many witnesses commented on the high visibility of derelict and unused buildings and land in the City.
  • Developer pressure with regard to the historic environment is limited. Where it does exist the impact is huge. Redundant sites throughout the city awaiting redevelopment need to be addressed.
  • Responsibility of owners should be focused by more use of the Council’s enforcement and statutory powers, particularly urgent works. Notices that place responsibility for costs on the owner.
  • All individual buildings at risk need to be reviewed and a strategy for each developed.
  • Note and alleviate the serious detriment caused by rundown appearance of key sites.
  • Develop a tourism strategy and ensure that there is good understanding within it of our heritage assets, literature and cultural opportunities.
  • There is a deficit of skills locally for the design and adaptation of historic buildings and their practical repair.
  • New development schemes should regard Heritage assets as focal points and not problems e.g. St John’s Church Hanley adjacent to the Potteries Centre.
  • Better public information for owners of heritage buildings should be provided.
  • The Council’s database for Heritage, the Historic Environment Record (HER) has several gaps.
  • The latest complete Buildings at Risk survey was carried out in 2006 and needs updating.
  • The local list has never been fully surveyed and explanatory texts establishing the reasons for listing have not been completed. This has not been helpful to the planning team who are therefore uncertain what weight to give the local status.
  • The City Council should take a proactive and positive approach to facilitating action by local community groups who are interested in preserving specific buildings and are willing to spend their own time working to do this.
  • It will be impossible to regenerate Stoke-on-Trent until local people are engaged in the process. However, there is clearly a lack of capacity within the local amenity societies and trusts to deliver robust business plans and the Council should seek to address this through its “independence” agenda.”
 4.9  The Heritage Commission Report identifies that “Stoke-on-Trent’s industrial legacy and designation as an area to permit access to regional, national and European financial assistance has enabled the city to benefit from £70m of combined heritage investment over the last 18 years.”15 With regards to this heritage investment, “Schemes delivered under this programme of investment have supported economic growth and employment as well as reaching to community and delivering education and learning... Heritage led projects supporting economic growth include: The restoration of Middleport Pottery enabling the conurbation and expansion of ceramic manufacture of Burleigh Ware, Centre of Refurbishment Excellence (CoRE) an independent national centre of learning and skills development for the construction industry working for a low carbon, resource efficient UK through refurbishment of existing homes and workplaces; gap funding coordinated programmes such as Heritage Lottery Townscape Heritage Schemes, English Partnership Schemes and building improvement schemes funded by European Programmes, Regional Development Agency and the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. Gap funding schemes have also delivered refurbishments into Middleport, Hanley, Burslem, Longton and Stoke.”

4.10  The report also identifies that “Heritage projects supporting the community and public places have delivered the restoration of Burslem Park and an active application is being progressed through its phase two stages for Hanley Park. Numerous places of worship have received targeted support from English Heritage and this will continue through the Heritage Lottery Fund. Museums and museum trusts have received assistance which has included The Staffordshire Hoard at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Spode Trust, and Chatterley Whitfield.”