Civic Update

1 December 2017

Our new address is:
Civic Voice, The Coffin Works, 13-15 Fleet Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B3 1JP.
Tel.: 0121 792 8177
Please update your records.

This week we have been advocating conservation areas with MPs, championing their future with Birmingham Civic Society, considering the use of Design Codes in conservation areas and celebrating conservation area activities for National Civic Day as the day to say "My Conservation Area Matters". Finally, Sarah Stirling from the team made a visit to Castlefields conservation area in Manchester to learn more about why it was designated an Outstanding Conservation Areas in the 1970s.

We have been delighted with the response to our fundraising campaign to support a new report looking at the future of conservation areas, to be launched at our All Parth Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies meeting in January. We would like to thank all of you who have supported the campaign so far and this week highlight:

  1. Butler Hegarty Architects
  2. Easenhall Parish Council
  3. The City of Winchester Trust

This is showing that the Private sector, community sector and parish council sector all see the need for well managed conservation areas. We hope you will join them.

The number of conservation areas at risk rose to 512 in 2017 from 497 in 2014, after surveys of almost 8,300 (84 per cent) conservation areas across the country. This means that 6% per cent of England’s conservation areas are now considered to be at risk. With funding cuts and continued pressure on local authority conservation staff (33 per cent of conservation staff lost since 2007), the problem is likely to get worse.

Please support our campaign and make a donation to help grow the national civic movement, please visit Donation to Conservation Area Campaign here.


Say “My Conservation Area Matters” for National Civic Day 2018

Photograph: Group wearing Civic Day shirts

Looking after conservation areas is a responsibility shared by those of us who live, work or do business in them as well as those of us whose job it is to manage them or make decisions about their future. Yet according to Historic England research, 56% of people do not even realise that they live in a conservation area. Conservation Areas must be protected - they have an important role as we look to the future and can help councils, civic groups and communities to preserve what's really special for future generations to enjoy.

We want National Civic Day to be the national opportunity for members of the local community to get involved with protecting and enhancing their conservation area, either individually or through groups. In previous years. groups have helped to prepare character appraisals and management plans for conservation areas whilst others have carried out their own assessments to identify management issues.

On Civic Day 2017 Hannah Seager's video had centre stage on the Altrincham Civic Society town centre stall, playing continuously. The video helped to start many conversations on how Altrincham can protect their heritage. Be inspired by Hannah and say "My Conservation Area Matters" and support National Civic Day 2018. Register here.

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Birmingham Civic Society issues plea in defence of city's threatened conservation areas

Photograph: Houses in conservation area

Birmingham’s influential Civic Society has called on the council to drop plans to scrap two historic conservation areas and ensure more of the city’s built heritage is protected and enhanced.

The intervention comes after the council announced plans to remove both the Austin Village in Northfield and the Ideal Village area of Bordesley Green from its list of 30 official conservation areas.

It said too many homeowners had ignored the strict planning guidelines and built porches, installed modern UPVC windows and doors, paved front gardens and refurbished their properties with modern rather than historic materials.

Meanwhile, the council is also considering designating parts of Acocks Green and Weoley Hill as new conservation areas. In an open letter to the planning department, the society, accused the council of negligence through its failure to advise residents on their responsibilities and enforcement of breaches.

Read the full story here.

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Nantwich Civic Society celebrates 50 years at museum event

More than 60 members and guests gathered in Nantwich Museum to celebrate 50 years of Nantwich Civic Society. The organisation has been serving the community and town to ensure conservation, good design and practical volunteering thrives.

Nantwich residents were so concerned in 1967 about the national push for modernisation that was demolishing or leaving to rot so many historic buildings, that they set up the society and were then instrumental in establishing the first and revised Nantwich Town Centre Conservation Area.

As relevant today as 50 years ago, it was the Society's campaign that inspired the creation of The Nantwich Partnership which is a coalition of Nantwich Town and Cheshire East councils and voluntary groups across the town, aiming to improve the public realm and quality of environment of the town.

Happy Birthday Nantwich Civic Society!

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Guidance Open for Consultation on Neighbourhood Planning

Neighbourhood planning is another tool to help shape where you live. We see no reason why a conservation area in itself could not be covered by a neighbourhood plan and many, if not most, neighbourhood planning areas, ranging from small villages to town and city centres, will include heritage, such as listed buildings, conservation areas and buildings on local lists.

It is not a surprise for us to see Historic England issuing an updated advice note exploring the role of the historic environment in neighbourhood plans. It is written for those involved in preparing neighbourhood plans (neighbourhood planning groups, local planning authorities and others). It advises on how to cover heritage effectively and make the most of the opportunities available. It is being updated now to take account of and help respond to the current practicalities of preparing a neighbourhood plan.

Comments are welcome on any aspect of the text. Please help Historic England to ensure that the advice note is readable and useful. Tell Historic England if something needs to be explained more clearly or a key issue has been omitted or not considered in enough detail.

The advice note will replace Neighbourhood Planning Information August 2014 and this consultation closes on Friday 15 December 2017.

It is important that civic and conservation societies respond to this consultation to ensure that the advice being provided to groups on the historic environment is up to date and appropriate.

Some of the points you might want to focus on might include:

  • Does this document relate to your own experience? Does it provide the answers to the questions you have considered?
  • Do you feel as though it sufficiently explains the evidence base for heritage? Is there enough recognition of the other evidence requirements around use, economy, viability, etc.
  • Does it cover heritage and sustainable growth in your view? Should it?
  • Does it cover how the planning system and heritage interact in practice?
  • Do you feel as though it has an appropriate understanding of how community and stakeholder engagement works for neighbourhood plans?
  • Is heritage considered in the widest terms possible to include its cultural, economic, social and environmental value?
  • Does it help explain how heritage interacts with other policy areas?

These are just some thoughts we have, but please share anything you have with Historic England. It is important that they get this right.

The draft guidance and details of how to respond to the consultation can be found here.

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Using Design Codes in St Albans Conservation Area

Responding to our questions last week about whether development in a conservation area is appropriate, 'Look! St Albans' got in touch to tell us about their experience in helping shape local developments through the use of Design Codes

'Look! St Albans' came about at the end of 2011 because of the great concern of local people that new proposals were coming forward for new buildings in St Albans Central Conservation Area that could be St Anywhere not St Albans. Through a series of design charrettes (A public meeting or workshop devoted to a concerted effort to solve a problem or plan the design of something.), the community in St Albans co-authored draft design codes for central St Albans, with the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community.

Earlier this year, Vanessa Gregory from Look! was asked to contribute to the autumn edition of Urban Design publication which features six articles under the heading ‘Conservation Gap: Skills deficit or urban opportunity’. Vanessa details the history and work of Look! and encourages other groups to become proactive in their areas. Click here to read a copy of Vanessa’s contribution to Urban Design with kind permission of the Urban Design Group.

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Help remove redundant street clutter from our conservation areas

The reasons conservation areas become 'at risk' are often difficult to address as they can cover large areas of land, but key indicators can include poorly maintained roads and pavements, street clutter and loss of front garden walls. In addition, conservation areas are not being helped by the funding cuts to local authorities across the country who continue to see their resources reduced, and this is making their task in protecting conservation areas, more difficult to deliver. We want more residents in conservation areas to play a greater role by nominating high quality developments for the Civic Voice Design Awards, helping prepare lists of local historic buildings or doing street clutter audits and to celebrate where they live through National Civic Day.

So, how can we get involved?

Some local groups have helped to prepare character appraisals and management plans for conservation areas whilst others have carried out their own assessments to identify management issues. Others undertake audits of the local area. One audit can be a Street Clutter audit or a Garden Check. Street Pride is another part of Civic Voice’s national campaign “The Big Conservation Conversation” , supporting local action to help rid conservation areas and other streets of unnecessary clutter. We are gathering evidence to support a national call for action to create more streets we can be proud of. Our evidence will be presented to the government.

At the heart of Street Pride is a campaign toolkit with information on a street survey which your local group can undertake. You can download a copy here.

Street Pride is focused on the four most widespread sources of street clutter: bollards; signs; posts (including lampposts and traffic lights) and guard rails. Street Pride builds on the excellent initiatives already undertaken by a number of civic societies. By joining the Street Pride campaign your efforts can make a real difference to reducing street clutter locally and by working together we can produce a national picture which will help Civic Voice make places more attractive, enjoyable and distinctive.

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Get Involved!

Sign up for Civic Voice's range of newlsetters

Photograph: Group of conservationists

Regional War Memorials workshops

Photograph: Group holding 'save our memorials' banner

Trustees' Roadshow

Photograph: Trustees

Big Conservation Conversation

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War Memorials News

Sign up here to receive bi-weekly news on what communities are doing to commemorate the fallen during the centenary years

Civic Voice is calling for volunteers from around England to attend a meeting or workshop with us to discuss how best to find and survey every war memorial.

Workshops will be announced throughout the year in different locations, so keep a look out for a workshop in your area! You can see them here.

If you can't attend a workshop why not get involved through our War Memorials Condition Survey Toolkit. This is an easy step by step guide which trains volunteers how to carry out condition surveys on war memorials. You can see this here!

For more information or to get involved email

Does your civic society want a visit from the chairwoman of Civic Voice or perhaps you would like another trustee or member of the Civic Voice team to come and speak to your society? We have a number of people willing to come and talk to your society about all things civic.

Many of the Civic Voice team have been travelling the country delivering the talk which is titled 'The Future of the Civic Movement.' If you would like one of our trustees or team members to come and speak to your society please email with your request.