Friends of Sheffield Castle Statement on Council planning proposals for site of Sheffield Castle
We are broadly supportive of the Council’s plans for the Castle site, there is much to commend, particularly the excavation of the Castle Gatehouse and Drawbridge Pier area, the route ways and connectivity through the site, the large areas of green/open space and the daylighting of the River Sheaf, much of which reflects our own Blueprint for the site, produced in 2018.
However, we would also make the following comments:-
- We still believe this to be a missed opportunity to have undertaken a wider archaeological excavation of the site, using the findings and those of previous excavations to help inform the future design of the site. There are other significant remains of the Castle that could/should have added to the future visitor experience.
- The height of the proposed buildings on the corner of Exchange Street and Waingate are too high and apart from blocking the view of the Old Town Hall from the site, it will create a very narrow entrance to the site from that corner. The entrance way should be wide, perhaps with stepped down levels in height, and provide a view right through to Castlegate. The buildings should essentially have two fronts, and the frontages onto the castle site need to be broken up – terraces, balconies, rooftop gardens etc to allow more light in, and to create a better dialogue with the site.
- We support the statement of the Sheaf & Porter Rivers Trust in that planning should be sought for the whole stretch of the Sheaf on the site and also, at least part of this stretch should allow access to the waters edge.
- We are disappointed that the remains currently housed in north chamber will only see minor refurbishment as this is another missed opportunity to excavate around this important area and create a new building to house the remains and have on public show, however, we appreciate the budget stretch due to inflationary pressures and hope that future archaeological investigations and a new structure to display the remains will be supported by the Council in this area.
- We welcome the flexible approach to the site which can allow for future archaeological investigations and also the verbal assurances given that the Community groups will be able to create a permanent presence on the site. We would also hope that there may be some flexibility in the planning application to change the design and footprint of the proposed Plots 4a and 4b
- We would like to see the retaining features include the use of natural stone, earth and timber, evidencing the heritage of the medieval castle and echoing the fact that the castle stood originally on an earthen motte above what was a sandstone cliff.
- We accept some modern materials are required, however we want the site to reflect the medieval materials, and preferably not steel gabions filled with re-cycled materials which could look ‘cheap’.
- The Heritage Interpretation Strategy should include the future aim of installing a world class visitor experience on the site, such as has been undertaken for Richard III in Leicester or at the Ad Gefrin Distillery. This should build on the scope of the FoSC Blueprint which disappointingly is only briefly mentioned in the Interpretation Plan
- It is essential professional designers are contracted at the earliest possible stage with developing and producing the scope, options and content for the public interpretation of this important archaeological site, and who will work directly and collaboratively with FOSC and other community groups, to develop these materials and overarching heritage Vision.
On behalf of the Committee of Friends of Sheffield Castle