Civic Update

1 October 2018

Our address is:
Civic Voice, The Coffin Works, 13-15 Fleet Street, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, B3 1JP.

Tel.: 0121 792 8177
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It’s less that 3 weeks to go until the annual get together of the civic and conservation movement for the annual Civic Voice Conference. This year, we are heading to Birmingham at The REP on 19-20 October! The conference will focus on "How do we balance conservation and regeneration?" which is pertinent for all members of civic societies with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework earlier this year.

We have an outstanding line up of keynote speakers lined up for Friday 19 October including Dame Fiona Reynolds (former Director General, National Trust), Ben Derbyshire (Royal Institute of British Architects President), Ros Kerslake (Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Lottery Fund), Victoria Hills (Chief Executive Officer of Royal Town Planning Institute) and Deborah Lamb (Deputy Chief Executive of Historic England) to name just a few.

Included in the ticket price are a number of workshops, talks and tours on Saturday 20th for you to sign up to on the day - from seeing Birmingham’s canal heritage by canoe to workshops on conservation area appraisals and more.

The conference will give you the opportunity to meet with individuals involved in conservation and regeneration projects across the country and comment on how we can balance regeneration and conservation.

To find out more about the conference programme and to book, follow this link.


The future of the planning system and the nation’s conservation areas depend on a well-resourced planning system.

Photograph: Victoria Hill

We are delighted that Victoria Hills, Chief Executive Officer for the Royal Town Planning Institute, will be appearing at the Civic Voice conference to share her thoughts about the future of conservation areas. Victoria will make the case that the future of the planning system and the nation's conservation area depends on a well-resourced planning system.

Victoria will explain that an effective planning system is crucial to enabling regeneration and development, and if the government wants to meet the housing challenge that support our economy, it is going to need to take action and further support for front line planning is needed.

Victoria has more than 20 years’ experience working at senior levels in planning and transport. In autumn 2014 Victoria was seconded to establish and head up the Mayor’s second Mayoral Development Corporation, Old Oak and Park Royal, the UK’s largest regeneration project, so brings a unique perspective to our conference. Register to attend here

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Judge rejects legal challenge to Hodder’s Manchester tower

Picture: Poster showing tower and money raised to date

Deborah Lamb, Historic England CEO to speak at the Civic Voice Conference on 19th October.

A High Court judge has rejected a proposed legal challenge to Hodder + Partners’ controversial 39-storey tower in Manchester’s city centre.

The court has turned down the bid for a judicial review by the chairman of Manchester Civic Society Steve Speakman over the council’s decision to approve the £200 million skyscraper project.

Steve Speakman, Chair of Manchester Civic Society had launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund a legal challenge to Jackson’s Row Developments’ scheme, which is backed by ex-footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs.

The grounds for the challenge included that the council had not applied the right tests for assessing harm to the conservation area, had not properly dealt with its own planning policies and that minutes had ‘misrepresented’ what took place at a planning meeting.

SAVE (Britain's Heritage) director Henrietta Billings said: ‘The St Michael’s permission has implications not only for Manchester but for so-called protected townscapes across the country. From Bristol and Norwich to London and Edinburgh, there is growing alarm about the impact of massive over-scaled development on our historic townscapes and the way these decisions are being made.’

Ian Harvey, Executive Director, Civic Voice said: 'In determining planning applications, the local authority must consider how the proposed development within a Conservation Area ‘preserves or enhances’ the character or appearance of the area. If this scheme really does conform to national guidelines, then the protection of historic assets and their settings, supposedly provided by the National Planning Policy Framework and central government, is illusory and will set a poor example for communities across the country. Is it any wonder that over 70% of Civic Voice members do not feel that their Conservation Areas are being afforded the necessary protection. By allowing this development, we are basically saying that absolutely any development, anywhere and at anytime is allowed".

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East of England Network visit considers how Great Yarmouth is balancing conservation and regeneration

Photograph: Group of people from East of England Network.

Here at Civic Voice we believe that communities can play a much greater role in managing their local conservation area. Groups such as the Deal Society and Conservation Areas Wirral are already leading the way and are just some of the groups featured on the new Big Conservation Conversation website that can be accessed here.

In our view, 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 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 development pressures increase. Conservation areas can help councils, civic groups and communities to preserve what's really special about our towns, villages and cities for future generations to enjoy.

Civic Voice recognises that for the long-term future protection of conservation areas, so we have been organising visits to various towns as part of our regional network. The latest meeting headed to Great Yarmouth to hear how Great Yarmouth Civic Society and Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust are working together to inspire civic pride and bring neglected buildings back into use. Our next East of England meeting is in Ipswich in March 2019.

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Is this high quality design in a conservation area?

Photograph: Development considered to be unsympathetic

Unsympathetic new developments or inappropriate modern developments do not sit comfortably within the conservation areas and are in stark contrast to the traditional, vernacular styles seen in the adjacent properties

The National Planning Policy Framework 2 now says that good design is a key aspect of sustainable development and now includes further emphasis on the role of tools such as Design Review Panels, Community Engagement and design workshops. In future editions of civic update, we will explain what these all are, and how civic societies can participate. Yet, we still end up with developments like the one in the image above. This was submitted by Conservation Areas Wirral following on from a Civic Conservation Audit of Clifton Park, Wirral as part of Civic Voice's Big Conservation Conversation.

We need you to be the eyes and ears on the ground. Our report released earlier this year (See here) stated that we believe that the figure of 512 conservation areas classed as being 'at risk' is somewhat higher in reality. This is what led us to start piloting our Civic Conservation Audit. Although not developed to determine if a Conservation Area is at risk (that assessment is undertaken by the local authority), by using a standard approach, and with some training, we believe communities can play a part and we can develop an alternative assessment of the issues affecting conservation areas and identify real examples that are putting areas at risk. You can read here why Sutton Coldfield Civic Society decided to participate in the pilot.

Our report shows that local authorities and community groups have the same ambitions for where they live and that together, they are both stronger. Over the course of the campaign we have heard about many examples from communities across England where communities have come together to celebrate their conservation areas, we would love to hear more!

Download the Civic Conservation Audit here and let's work together to build the evidence of the lack of high quality design in our conservation areas.

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Civic Voice call for stronger protection on non-designated heritage assets in Planning Policy by publishing national register of local authorities with a Local Heritage List

Picture: Example of local heritage building

New research by Civic Voice, funded by Historic England’s Heritage Protection Commissions programme, shows that at least 168 local authorities across the country now have a Local Heritage List in place, giving greater protection to non-designated heritage assets. These authorities are active in listening to communities about what buildings, structures, sites and landscapes make the local area special.

The first national register of Local Heritage Lists is being published by Civic Voice today to inspire other communities to knock on the door of their local council and to campaign for more Local Heritage Lists to be created. The register is published alongside a new Civic Voice guide highlighting examples of local communities who have helped prepare Local Heritage Lists.

Sarah James, Civic Voice expert on Local Heritage Lists said: “Local planning authorities are encouraged to consider making clear and up-to-date information on their identified non-designated heritage assets, both in terms of the criteria used to identify assets and information about the location of existing assets, accessible to the public. We don’t think this goes far enough. By publishing this first national register we want to highlight that we have a long way to go to protect our local heritage. In our response to the draft National Planning Policy Framework earlier this year, we asked the Government to make it mandatory for local authorities to prepare a Local Heritage List.”

The Local Heritage List National Register and Local Heritage List Guide is available here

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