Redeveloping Heritage Buildings: Why we need to look forward to preserve the past

For the last ten years I have been involved in grappling with the future of historic and at times ancient buildings. The individual challenge changes but the broader issue is consistent. All of these buildings possess breath taking beauty or an awe-inspiring atmosphere and they all come with a myriad of practical challenges: heating, lighting, internet, energy efficiency, parking and on and on. In that time I have found a consistent method for dealing with this challenge which ties into broader strategies for any kind of problem solving.

As one delegate at a recent meeting suggested; “Wouldn’t it be cheaper, and easier to knock it down and sell the site?” Well it would, but fortunately, this way of thinking has been rightly consigned to the 1960’s, a period that eradicated many of our very important Stately Homes, Follies, Churches, Castles and many more. It was pioneer protestors such as Sir John Betjeman and his artist friend John Piper who began the fight to stop this wanton destruction. Thankfully their efforts stemmed the tide and made way for inspired organisations like the Landmark Trust, the Churches Conservation Trust and of course English Heritage all of whom have been an enormous force for good in preserving heritage buildings.

Old buildings give a place its identity. They shape a place’s character and give colour to a place’s personality. If a town was a person, what kind of a person would a ‘new town’ be as opposed to an old city like York for instance? With whom would you like to sit down with a cold beer and enjoy a Sunday afternoon’s banter? Who would relate the richest anecdotes and tell the most intriguing stories?

But of course anything of real antiquity comes at a price because you are paying for the layered histories distilled within it. Its price reflects is inherent value as something that couldn’t be replaced. It therefore becomes priceless and as such, coveted.

Professor Simon Thurley CEO at English Heritage before its restructure in 2015 said

“There are still lots of places with very strong cultural heritage – whether it be museums, or streetscapes, or castles, or churches, or palaces – which have not yet cottoned on to that. We somehow have got to get these places understanding that they have got assets here and not liabilities.” He goes on to make the point that “we should make a more formal recognition that heritage is in fact a production factor in the economy. It’s not just about culture, it’s about economics.”

The notion that heritage buildings have an intrinsic, irreplaceable value is broadly understood but heritage doesn’t mean preserving things in aspic. True heritage conservation is about adapting the building to meet the needs of the present day whilst retaining those intangible qualities that make it valuable in the first place. Particularly if we want people to understand and connected with our past via architecture, we need to not just preserve these buildings, but find a use for them.

But, understanding value does nothing to make practical issues relating to the redevelopment of old buildings disappear. What does help, is creating a mindset that views the positive values of the building for what they are, and the problems not as insurmountable issues, but opportunities to create something new.

This is something IVE has been working on across multiple projects. For example, we have worked with Thomas Lister Chartered Surveyors, to help with re-purposing the now redundant Calderdale Magistrates Courts. Over the last three years Calderdale Council has made significant financial investment into other major heritage assets in Halifax such as their unique Piece Hall; recently visited by HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. It therefore makes sense to integrate other important heritage building’s futures into this vision. But to do this, a financially viable, creative proposition needs to be found for buildings like the Magistrates Court.

To achieve this, we recently hosted an event in Halifax that convened a number of interested stakeholders from the private, public and third sectors, in a creative conversation about the future of the courts. Initially, we gathered the stakeholders together and discussed some of the potential ideas for reusing the courts. As expected, conversations focused on the problems it presented: the court’s massive footprint, its Grade II Listing, its complex layout (including the cells in the basement!), its limited town-centre car parking and out-dated, inefficient energy management system.

What we then did was have everyone involved engage in some fun simple activities that explained the common ways in which we shut down and limit ideas followed by a series of interactive exercises which prime the brain into a creative mode. Then we took the visitors inside the building and suddenly the conversations tended to be about admiring the beautiful oak panelling, plaster ceiling decoration and stained glass, as well as the magnificent proportion of the windows letting light flood in and the awesome fireplaces with ornate timber mantles and beaten copper hoods. The seemingly insurmountable problems faded away and instead people opened up to imagining the possibilities of what it could be used for. We had suggestions ranging from a boutique hotel, a creative hub and new flats to an interactive gaming venue, a series of relaxation chambers and a dog hotel!

We’re also engaged in a project to develop the next generation of conservationists, Ignite, part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s “Kick the Dust” initiative. Ignite connects young people with heritage spaces and then uses their natural creativity to reimagine the space, envisaging new uses for it that will preserve that heritage by giving it new life.

In the end, if investment is made strategically to protect our beautiful old buildings by making sure they serve new communities in relevant and exciting ways, their presence on our streets as characters we know and love, will pay dividends. The loss of a building liability is cheap and easy. The creative preservation of heritage assets that represent our sense of place is difficult. But we have to be up for the challenge.

IVE is a social enterprise that is working to ensure a more creative future for businesses, teachers, children and young people. If you’d like to learn more please get in touch at to see how we can help provide a creative toolset to solve the challenges facing your business.

Bradford Property Forum – Wed 18 April, 8-9.45am

The changing role of city centres – a market perspective on emerging trends

When: 8-9.45am; Wed 18 April 2018

Where: Bradford City FC, Valley Parade, BD8 7DZ

What: Emerging office/retail trends and their likely impact on Bradford

Who: Cushman & Wakefield; property developer;

This session will look at the key trends/future outlook for property market sectors and the implications for Bradford.

Top international property firm, Cushman & Wakefield, has a national Futures Group looking at exactly this and are advising clients on themes around the future of retailing and e-commerce, especially those linked to technological/cultural shifts and co-working trends.

C&W’s Ben Pretty and Stephen Miles will deliver the latest information on this.

Other contributions, including another private sector property developer and Bradford Council, have been invited to take part.

To book, call 01274 206660 or email

Cost: £15 Chamber members (£30 non-members)

Chamber head underlines city’s success

The President of York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce has set out to the business community what she wants to see happen over the next two years of her term of office.

Bridget Meynell, Managing Director of Minster FM radio station, gave a heartfelt and impassioned speech at the annual dinner of York & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce last night (Thursday 22 March).  AAs well as highlighting the many great facets and attractions that the city has, Bridget called for firm and prompt action in a number of policy areas that will make York & North Yorkshire even more successful.

Bridget noted that, due to the region’s already successful reputation, York’s talent pool is stretched, forcing employers to cast their net ever wider for quality staff; she also reminded those present that the city recently won the Sunday Times’ ‘best place to live in the UK’ award for 2018.  The Chamber president also stressed the areas that are hampering businesses from being more successful: transport, planning, housing, and digital connectivity all being underlined.  In particular, Bridget mentioned the continued lack of a Local Plan, the dualling of the A64, devolution, and developing mobile connectivity in rural areas as being of importance.

Keynote speaker at the event, held once more at the city’s National Railway Museum, was radio and TV presenter, Jeremy Vine.   Event sponsors were: HSBC, the Business Enterprise Fund, Chamber International, Lupton Fawcett, Portakabin, Saville Audio Visual, Shepherd Group, Seat and Uber.

Bridget became President of York & North Yorkshire Chamber in 2017; her Vice-President is Andrew Digwood of Rollitts LLP.

Brexit Checklist available

A ‘Brexit Checklist’ is now available for businesses thanks to the Chamber of Commerce.

In conjunction with the British Chambers of Commerce, we have produced a handy document that should serve businesses well as the Government continues to negotiate its way towards Brexit.

The document is available here.

Also, BCC has commented on the latest progress to be made on the matter – see below.

Commenting on the agreement of a ‘status quo’ transition period by UK and EU27 Brexit negotiators, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“This is a milestone that many businesses across the UK have been waiting for. The agreement of a status quo transition period is great news for trading firms on both sides of the Channel, as it means that they will face little or no change in day-to-day business in the short term.

“While some companies would have liked to see copper-bottomed legal guarantees around the transition, the political agreement reached in Brussels is sufficient for most businesses to plan ahead with a greater degree of confidence. Many companies will now have the clarity they require to proceed with investment and hiring strategies that would otherwise have remained in question.

“In the interests of business across Europe, both sides must now do everything in their power to ensure that the transition does not become a political football later in the negotiation process.”

On citizens’ rights, Marshall said:

“Businesses across the UK will be particularly relieved that they will be able to hire and retain European nationals on similar terms over the next two years, given the significant skills gaps they continue to contend with.”

On trade agreements, he added:

“A priority for both the UK and the EU must now be to secure agreement from our shared trading partners to keeping the status quo on existing EU free trade agreements. Any loss of market access would hurt UK exporters and European supply chains alike. It is excellent that the UK and the EU agree on the need for continuity in existing trade agreements; together, we must now seek confirmation from our trading partners.

“While businesses are interested in the prospect of the UK being able to sign new trade agreements during the transition period, the top priority must be to retain market access on the same terms with existing trading partners.”

On the future UK/EU trading relationship, Marshall concluded:

“Over the next few days, securing assent from the European Council must be the top priority. Over the coming weeks and months, the UK government and the European Commission must adopt a laser-like focus on the future trading relationship – and swiftly conclude a deal that minimises further adjustment costs and that answers the many practical questions that trading businesses still face.

“A zero-tariff agreement is a no-brainer for both sides. However, businesses need to see more pragmatic positions from both sides on customs and cooperation in services.”

Poor mobile connectivity? Let us know

Businesses are being asked to provide details of where there is current poor mobile phone connectivity.

The Chamber network across the UK is launching a campaign that will bring together business communities and those involved in delivering mobile networks to identify coverage challenges and work through solutions to improve poor mobile connectivity.

‘Not-spots’ and areas of partial ‘not-spots’ hamper businesses across our region. A recent British Chambers of Commerce survey found that 21% of firms say the UK mobile phone network doesn’t meet their needs.  Accessing new and existing customers, suppliers and employees were cited as issues.  Despite investment in geographic coverage for voice and text, not-spots still exist, even in dense commercial centres.

As an example, a major employer in the area said: “Our office is at a modern business park, three miles from the centre. The coverage for the major network that we use is patchy, at best. On the ground floor, it is non-existent. Upstairs, we receive a low-grade 4G signal most of the time.

“An example of how this affects us is this: before we had our Wi-Fi up and running, a client wanted to organise a call via Skype. As we don’t run Skype on our desktop network, I had to sit outside in the car park, where there was at least some signal, to conduct the conference on my mobile. The clients were in London and the USA.  This does not present our region as a credible place to do business.

“In addition, our business involves travelling to see clients or moving between office locations.  On several occasion, I have been frustrated when speaking on the mobile, particularly north / north east of York, where I often only get ‘one bar’ of signal.  The signal can also be very inconsistent and making a call on the move can become a frustrating series of ‘dropped’ calls.

“This is incompatible with a business environment that expects and encourages flexible working, and where clients want their advisers being available whether sitting at their desk or not. We are often told that York is at the forefront of business connectivity and in the centre that’s probably true. However, one does not have to travel far to discover ‘black holes’ and ‘not-spots’ causing major inconvenience and an obstacle to fully embracing modern business practices.”

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce has more examples from across the area from companies facing similar problems.

Our campaign will be constructive and focused on solutions. While we’ll press for investment and services improvements, we will work with mobile operators and all parties with a stake in getting this right across the UK. Working together, business, communities and operators can identify key gaps in coverage and find shared solutions to resolve the real-world connection problems many business communities face.

Businesses are asked to get in touch with the Chamber here, and share your experiences of poor connectivity.  Information will be used in mapping out areas where mobile phone signal coverage is unreliable as part of the national campaign.


Bradford Means Business Awards – get nominating!

The annual Bradford Means Business awards are strongly supported by the Chamber of Commerce and we are encouraging local companies to get their nominations in now.

Firms have only until 7 April to nominate for the seven of the ten categories (more than one category nomination is allowed) before judges will begin to sift through the entries.  A celebratory gala night to recognise the winners (and those short-listed) will take place on Thursday 5 July.

  • Small or Medium Enterprise of the Year
  • Manufacturer of the Year
  • New Business of the Year
  • Apprentice of the Year
  • Job Creator of the Year
  • Businesswoman of the Year
  • Business Personality of the Year

Read more about it – and how to nominate – here.

The event is jointly organised by the Chamber of commerce, the Telegraph & Argus and Bradford Council.

Research backs NPR city station

Emerging research shows that a Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) station in Bradford city centre could boost the economy by up to £15bn by 2060, creating up to 15,000 jobs across the city region. 

Two computer-generated images have been released (included here) that show how Bradford Interchange and the surrounding area could be transformed by investing in a city centre station as part of NPR. More information on the campaign is on the Next Stop Bradford website.

Please continue to support the campaign by checking out the Twitter feed @nxtstopbradford for the latest news, and please re-tweet to show your support.

The research was carried out by economic development consultants Genecon.

Devolution case gathers momentum

A strong proposal to Government to deliver a One Yorkshire devolution deal by May 2020 has been submitted by the majority of Yorkshire’s local authorities.  Eighteen of the 20 councils in the region are now signed up to this idea – only Rotherham and Sheffield are not on board with the scheme.

The submission follows the request for such a proposal made by Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid, at a Yorkshire & North Lincolnshire APPG meeting recently.

It is proposing an elected Mayor for Yorkshire by 2020 with powers to support adult skills provision and co-design employment support. The devolution deal would also have “the ability to create a joined up approach with a focus on connecting the people of Yorkshire to job opportunities, including through a single Yorkshire smart travel ticket.”

Such a deal would enable a Yorkshire Combined Authority to create an Investment Fund of more than £3.75bn via a 30-year ‘gain-share revenue stream’ and locally raised finance. The proposal includes the phrase: “An incoming Yorkshire Mayor would have the option, subject to primary legislation, and on the basis of support from local business, to raise a business rates supplement.”

The submission adds: “This Deal represents a first step in a progressive process of devolution of funding, powers and responsibilities to Yorkshire Combined Authority and a directly elected Mayor for Yorkshire. As well as the funding and powers set out in this deal, Yorkshire Combined Authority working with its constituent authorities and Government will continue to consider further opportunities for devolution.”

Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Doncaster, East Riding of Yorkshire, Hambleton, Harrogate, Hull, Kirklees, Leeds, North Yorkshire, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby, Wakefield and York Councils all agreed on the submission. Sheffield and Rotherham would be able, if they were so minded, to join at a later date.

The One Yorkshire deal proposed states: “Deal to be based on the widest possible Yorkshire geography conditional on Government enabling all 20 Yorkshire Councils to join – if they so choose – by May 2020.  Should Sheffield and Rotherham choose to not join the deal, it is recognised that arrangements may need to be made to ensure the integration of transport across South Yorkshire.”

The document outlining proposed terms of an agreement between the 18 Yorkshire council leaders/representatives and Government states: “The delivery of this devolution agreement is central to Yorkshire’s collective drive to unleash the full economic potential of a region with an established international brand, an economy twice the size of Wales and a population the same as Scotland.  At its heart is a desire to accelerate the pace of rebalancing prosperity, to play a central role in a confident outward looking UK economy and embrace the opportunities of the digital age and to do so through self-reliance, self-help and self-sufficiency.

It goes on to say:  “The plan to create a single mayoral combined authority for Yorkshire by May 2020 addresses the requirement for these ambitions to be delivered through clear accountable arrangements which avoid duplication and additional costly and burdensome bureaucracy. However, more profoundly, it does so based on the strong, shared, internationally-recognised Yorkshire identity and brand.  Public support for mayoral arrangements to align with an existing identity which complements – rather than competes – with their powerful allegiance to village, town or city, is clear. This proposal will establish a Yorkshire mayor with the capacity to be a powerful symbol of common endeavour within the region and as an ambassador for it nationally and internationally.  This document sets out how important it is to place powers “where they will have maximum impact while retaining the overarching benefits of regional coherence and co-operation.”

Bradford Strategy launch sees Chamber out in force

Representatives of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce have helped celebrate the launch of Bradford’s new economic strategy.

A formal event saw business representatives from many sectors, plus partners such as key education institutions, hear from senior Council personnel, while a panel of business people espoused the merits of living and working in the District.

The new document was put together following a series of consultations and workshops in recent weeks and months.  The strategy identifies the city’s opportunities and challenges, but is also an aide-memoire to help attract new investment into the area.

Chamber representatives included Chief Executive Sandy Needham, Bradford President Nick Garthwaite, and Policy & Representation team members Mark Goldstone and Mike Cartwright.  Also present was Bradford Property Forum chair, Allan Booth of Rance Booth Smith Architects.

Nick Garthwaite, Bradford Chamber President, said afterwards:

“I think it’s important for a city like Bradford to have a vision, to have aspirations on how it wants to change over the next generation, but that vision needs to match the city’s own characteristics.  A lot of work went into creating the strategy, involving lots of different partners and stakeholders from within the District, and the document is probably more than the sum of its parts.  It features many of the city’s qualities, while highlighting the challenges we face as we strive to become more successful; so it’s a tool that can be used to help market Bradford, while also a guide to help deliver more growth and prosperity in the future. We’re pleased to have contributed to the discussions that have helped put the strategy together.”

Targets in the strategy include:

  • Raise GVA by £4bn
  • Get 20,000 more people into work
  • Raise the skills level of 48,000 more people to NVQ3

In a nod towards the importance of the Northern Powerhouse idea and cross-country co-operation, keynote speaker was Manchester Council Leader, Sir Richard Leese.

A PDF version is available here.

Panellists (L-R): Caroline Pullich, Barclays; Kamran Rashid, entrepreneur; Roger Marsh, LEP Chair; Amir Hussain, Yeme Architects; Lisa Leighton, Morrisons; Kersten England, Bradford Council.