Two city councillors have been appointed to roles to champion Stoke-on-Trent’s heritage and thriving allotments facilities.

Councillor James Smith has been announced as heritage champion, taking on the role from deputy council leader Daniel Jellyman. And councillor Lesley Adams has been appointed as allotments champion, a new role created in response to the growing interest in allotment sites across the city, particularly in light of the coronavirus.

Council leader Abi Brown announced the new appointments. She said: “These two posts emphasise our commitment to issues that are important for our city for a host of reasons. We take the heritage of Stoke-on-Trent extremely seriously, and since councillor Jellyman became our first heritage champion in 2015, have built strong relationships with national bodies such as Historic England, securing millions of pounds of investment into the city, and transforming our reputation as a city that maximises the importance of its heritage. Heritage funding brought into the city includes through the restoration of shop frontages in Stoke town and successfully campaigning for Longton to be recognised as a Heritage Action Zone. As a council we have invested heavily in restoring Longton Town Hall and bringing more services for residents into the building, and are currently making strong progress on major restoration works to do the same at Tunstall Town Hall.

“The importance of allotments as a source of fresh air, positive physical activities and mental health, and not to mention the opportunity to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, has never been more significant, and interest in our sites across the city is at a record high. These two posts will enable the council to continue to prioritise these important areas of work, and I’m looking forward to seeing how councillors Smith and Adams take their roles forward.”

Councillor Smith will continue to prioritise strong relationships with local heritage groups in the city and put pressure on the owners of historic buildings to ensure that they are maintained to high standards.

He said: “The work in this area over the past five years has put an excellent foundation in place that I’m eager to build on. As an authority, we have embedded the city’s heritage as a key consideration in a wide range of our work such as through the planning process, regeneration and development of the city. We have built strong relationships with local groups such as the Heritage Network and the Potteries Heritage Society, and I will be meeting with these groups and others. I will also be working closely with national bodies such as Historic England and the wider network of heritage champions across the country to raise the profile of the work going on in our fantastic city.

“By working outside of the council’s cabinet, I’ll be scrutinising development proposals put before the council. I will also support private building owners where possible but will not shy away from taking a firm stance on those who do not maintain their buildings and let them fall into disrepair. Regrettably we have seen cases like this in the city such as at the Price and Kensington works in Middleport, where the council has led enforcement action against the owner who let this unique pottery crumble and parts of the buildings become unsafe.”

Councillor Adams will champion the city’s 3,129 allotment plots at sites across Stoke-on-Trent. She said: “Demand for our allotments sites is really high, and the standards that people keep them to is amazing. I was lucky enough to be a part of our annual event to find the city’s best-kept allotment earlier this year, and the quality of entries was incredibly high.

“I have an allotment at the Dolly’s Lane allotment site in my Burslem Park ward, so know it is extremely well used, and I’m looking forward to supporting our city’s allotments sites and speaking to groups across the city. One of the fringe benefits of the horrible coronavirus pandemic is that people have been thinking locally and growing locally in ways that they may not have done so before. I am really passionate about healthy eating and my background is in nutrition. Allotments are also massively important in helping to maintain healthy mental health. Our allotments sites are buzzing, and I want to build on that momentum. I’ll be working closely with officers and cabinet members to ensure that allotments continue to be an important focus of our work as an authority.”

(Main image Councillor Lesley Adams.)


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