Plan to protect relics of Stoke-on-Trent's industrial past
AN AMBITIOUS project has been launched to help preserve Stoke-on-Trent's heritage and prevent historic buildings from falling into disrepair.
A 'heritage commission' will bring together a think-tank of historians, politicians, businesses and residents to draw up plans to preserve historic sites and conservation areas.
They will debate how to make better use of landmarks from the city's industrial past including civic buildings, bottle kilns and canals.
The commission, led by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, will culminate in a 'heritage summit', where ideas and strategies will be announced.
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Harmesh Jassal, the city council's strategic manager of planning, policy and building regulations, said: "The commission will bring a lot of people and ideas together to look at the heritage of the city.
"It's about finding ways to make the best use of our heritage – to boost employment and economic growth.
"There are places like the Spode site, Burslem Town Hall and the canals. These are the places we will be looking at.
"We want to create jobs, refurbish and bring buildings back into use."
The council will seek backing from English Heritage, as well as applying to become a Heritage Lottery 'priority investment area'.
The plans have been welcomed by Potteries historian Fred Hughes.
He said: "It's a brilliant idea. It's something I have been advocating for years.
"The only thing left that Stoke-on-Trent can offer is its heritage and its background in ceramics and heavy industry.
"That heritage has been allowed to erode for more than a decade and it's a scandal.
"The city is bursting with heritage and history.
"It should be exploited."
Cabinet members backed the plans at a meeting last night.
Councillor Mark Meredith, cabinet member for economic development, said: "The people of Stoke-on-Trent really do cherish their heritage and links to the ceramics industry.
"The council can be rightly proud of the work it has done on but there is much more investment needed and much more work still to be done."
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, said: "We need to address the issues with historic buildings and protect our heritage.
"This will help us to understand the pressures and to prioritise initiatives for managing our heritage."
Councillor Andy Platt, cabinet member for city services, added: "There are a lot of people who will be really interested in contributing."
A series of preliminary meetings will be held in the new year with the council hoping to stage the summit in May.