Sefton Council is leading the way in protecting the borough’s most culturally and historically important sites for generations to come.
Working closely with English Heritage and other partners, the local authority has created a proactive and contemporary approach to taking care of Sefton’s Heritage At Risk sites. This approach led to the creation of a dedicated Sefton Heritage At Risk Officer and, although originally planned as only a temporary position, approval has now been received to make it a permanent fixture of the local authority.
Stuart Barnes, Sefton Council’s Head of Economic Growth and Housing, oversaw the creation of the role and outlined the authority’s ambitions to better manage the borough’s incredible heritage sites. Stuart said: “We really stepped outside the ‘planning box’ in our bid to protect our Heritage At Risk sites. Firstly we had to address what could be done to keep our assets from the ‘At Risk’ register. What were the root causes and could potential problems be headed off before sites became at risk? We know heritage assets are important to our communities, providing a historical context to neighbourhoods and townscapes. But due to increasing pressures on resources it was necessary to look at different ways of tackling risk, which is why we created the Heritage At Risk officer’s position. The wide scope of the role allows us to focus on innovative partnership work, improved community understanding and exploring possible future savings and funding streams. Our work has been so beneficial that Southport, one of our key heritage sites, was chosen as a pilot project for Historic England’s national ‘Heritage Action Zone’ scheme.
“This led to a number of fantastic initiatives including the Southport Development Framework, the Lord Street Verandah Project and community led Heritage Trails.”
“A number of key buildings and spaces within Sefton – listed buildings and other buildings in conservation areas – have been targeted for intervention, investment and re-use. This is a complex, large scale and long term project, particularly so with the resources at our disposal, but nevertheless is a key priority for Sefton Council”.
Daniel Longman, Sefton’s dedicated Heritage At Risk Officer, added: “My role is to make sure our heritage sites are at the forefront of any work we do while continuing to encourage community resilience. I put a lot of focus into working closely with our communities and partners, using our combined knowledge to identify future projects, potential ‘At Risk’ sites and finding new funding streams. We want our communities and visitors to be better informed of the history and character and value of the borough and this has a positive knock-on effect on tourism, the economy and housing.”
Sefton Council is now working alongside partners and community groups in the delivery of the Southport Townscape Heritage Project, with the explicit aim of enhancing the quality and strength of the linkages between the town centre and the seafront. It will focus on historic properties between Lord Street and the Promenade and aims to complement the previous HLF restoration of King’s Gardens and the recent £2m award from the Coastal Communities funds for the pier.