Statement on the listing of the former Cole Brothers building

Barkers Pool - former John Lewis building


Joined Up Heritage Sheffield supported the bid for Historic England to list the former Cole Brothers store, and are delighted that it has decided to give Grade II listed status to this important and historic building which has played a central and much-loved role in the lives of thousands of Sheffielders. This does not prevent all change, but it does mean that any re-use has to consider what is historically and architecturally significant about the building – as indeed every proposal for any building should, whether nationally listed, locally listed, or not listed at all.

We strongly believe in a broad scope for heritage, the widest possible span of the things we value, and the widest spread of the people who value it. Heritage has many aspects, and everything that is special to someone can be respected and valued by everyone. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and changes from age to age. In the past, a change in taste has too often meant a rejection of the old. Sheffield has an ignoble history of getting rid of some of its best buildings when they fall temporarily out of use, so we also welcome the Council’s statement that they embrace the decision and will re-establish the property in its rightful place as a key attraction.

We also believe that heritage and the historic environment need a strategic approach. They have real-world benefits, on top of the character, identity and meaning that they give to us all. The economy needs heritage. It contributes a potential £240m in Sheffield alone – not counting big factors such as visitors and residents who come for the heritage but then spend on hotels or hospitality – and a cared-for historic environment has a measurable effect in boosting property values and attracting the most creative and productive businesses.

Neglecting or destroying heritage has the opposite effect, so comes with a cost. Climate change makes it still more costly – much more. If we demolish, the equivalent of thousands of tons of extra CO2 will be emitted in constructing replacement buildings. The old mantra “New must be better” is gone, replaced by “The greenest building is the one that already exists”.

Listing denotes national importance – it is not gained easily nor awarded lightly – and is a selling point. If the city chooses to get behind it, we can put Sheffield on the map where it belongs. Carrying on with the provably false idea that heritage is a “brake on development” is not an option.