Civic Update

15 September 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 participating in the national campaign, Remember A Charity Week, inspiring people to leave a gift in their Will. Remember A Charity Week launched on Monday (11 September) with a dedicated radio station travelling the country to engage the public. The campaign aims to inspire legacy giving by getting people talking about what they would like to pass on to future generations. Civic Voice is signed up to the campaign.

If you share the national civic movement’s mission then please consider leaving a gift in your will. Your legacy, no matter what the amount, will help the national movement ensure that the places where everyone lives are more attractive, enjoyable and distinctive now and in the future. With the advice of a solicitor, writing a will or changing it in order to include a gift to the national civic movement is very simple. If you want further information about how to leave a legacy or to set up a legacy scheme for your civic society please email Sarah James here


Sajid Javid sets out latest proposals to "speed up housing delivery"

Photograph: Sajid Javid MP

Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

A new consultation setting out a number of proposals to reform the planning system (again!!) to increase the supply of new homes and increase local authority capacity to manage growth has been published by the Government. Proposals include:

• a standard method for calculating local authorities’ housing need
• how neighbourhood planning groups can have greater certainty on the level of housing need to plan for.
• a statement of common ground to improve how local authorities work together to meet housing and other needs across boundaries.
• making the use of viability assessments simpler, quicker and more transparent.
• increased planning application fees in those areas where local planning authorities are delivering the homes their communities need.

Click here to read more information on the Government consultation: Planning for the right homes in the right places: consultation proposals.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid points out that councils spend an estimated £3 million in taxpayers’ money every year on employing consultants to work out how many new homes are needed in their area. Long legal disputes over these figures when preparing local plans can also lead to unnecessary delays and add to the costs. The consultation is proposing a single methodology. The Government believe that the proposed changes will help boost housing supply and improve affordability and help ensure councils work to a consistent approach to plan for more homes in the right places.

Javid said" ‘This is a crucial first step in solving the country’s housing crisis. As anyone who has tried to buy or rent a home recently would probably tell you, the housing market in this country is broken. The simple truth is that for far too long we haven’t built enough homes and we don’t build them quickly enough. It’s time to fix that. This new approach will cut the unnecessarily complex and lengthy debates that can delay house building. It will make sure we have a clear and realistic assessment of how many new homes are needed, and ensure local communities have a voice in deciding where they go,’ he added.

The Government has pledged to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and a further half a million more by the end of 2022 and Javid said that action to date has helped to stabilise the market and turn the tide of the economic downturn.

Civic Voice will continue to press that:-

• Government policies, such as those on permitted development should be revisited immediately as they are undermining large parts of town centres across England.
• There is no way to enforce either design standards or achieve strategic planning objectives given the current permitted development policies which have tied the hands of planning officers.
• There is a real need for local communities to feel confident that their wishes are given full weight if they have undertaken the hefty task of producing a Neighbourhood Plan.
• Big developers with major resources are still seen to be able to challenge and override.
• Support for smaller developers and for self build is essential to break the stranglehold of the bigger developers.
• We also believe that in the amount of housing needed the NPPF needs to be able to look at empty properties - especially over commercial premises and support the improvement of town and city centres rather than the pressure all being on green field sites.
•We continue to be concerned that Government policies are ‘nibbling away’ at the Green Belt and the erosion of established Green Belt is leading to inevitable pressure to amend Green Belt boundaries.
• Finally, as in much of current housing thinking there is very little about social housing and affordable housing.

This consultation will begin on Thursday 14 September and will run for 8 weeks until Thursday 9 November 2017.

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Joan Humble to speak at national celebration for Stamford, Lincolnshire

Joan Humble

Next week, Joan Humble, Chair of Civic Voice will be speaking at a national conference in Stamford to celebrate 50 years of Conservation Areas. The town of Stamford, Lincolnshire, was the first to be designated as a Conservation Area and, in recognition of this, several organisations have come togetether to support South Kesteven District Council to mark the event with a one-day conference on Thursday 21 September 2017 in the Arts Centre in Stamford. More information here.

The day will bring together a range of speakers who represent different professions and stakeholders whose life or work is influenced by the existence of Conservation Areas. The speakers will draw out what lessons have been learnt over the last 50 years and how the application of legislation has affected the way our environments have grown.

The event is being organised by Bidwells, and is supported by RIBA, Historic England, RTPI, IHBC and Civic Voice.

If you can't get to Stamford, there are other events being lined up over the next few months. More information below at 'Civic movement events...'

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Laura Sandys confirmed to speak at the Civic Voice Annual Convention in Wakefield on 20/21 October

Laura Sandys speaking from lectern

Reading, listening and participating are all great things to do, but by coming to Wakefield, you will experience “Civic Voice”. It is a different level of engagement. The Civic Voice Annual Convention is the best Civic Voice event of the year and we know it will help you and your civic society yield extraordinary results. We think it is an event that every committee member for a community group across England should consider.

We think at £50 to attend (and £45 for additional individuals from the same civic society) is worth at least considering it!

What will you get for that? Two days focused on building your membership and raising awareness of conservation areas including:

• Laura Sandys, Civic Voice Vice-president is confirmed to speak on the 50th anniversary of the Civic Amenities Act 1967 along with
• Trevor Mitchell, Regional Director of Historic England

You will get to hear from a plethora of industry experts over the two days:

• Colin Davis, industry expert on the public realm
• Rob Cowan, industry expert and author of the London Design Guide on urban design
• Sophia de Sousa, industry expert on community engagement
• Rob Lloyd Sweet, expert on local heritage listing
• John Penrose, industry expert on conservation areas

It is the event for you to attend if you are in a civic society.

Nowhere else and no other conference in this country would bring such a unique network of individuals together for you. These experts are doing it because of the relationship they have with Civic Voice.

You will also get to hear from other civic societies who will be sharing experiences of:

• Gavin Orton, Birmingham Civic Society on Birmingham’s work with local school
• David White, coordinator of The Deal Society work on conservation appraisals
• Leeds Civic Trust on how they are growing corporate membership
• Paul Cartwright on how Pontefract Civic Society have used the Civic Society Assessment Tool
• Jane Maggs on the success Southgate Civic Trust have had for National Civic Day
• Kevin Trickett on the modernisation of Wakefield Civic Society

To repeat: We think at £50 to attend (and £45 for additional individuals from the same civic society) is worth at least considering it!

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Civic movement events focusing on 50 years of Conservation Areas

Photograph: Ian Harvey

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Conservation Areas and to celebrate Civic Voice is speaking at a variety of events to celebrate conservation areas over the next few months.

Civic Voice and our partners including Historic England and IHBC would like to encourage civic societies to attend to conference exploring Conservation Areas and community action.

Aimed at representatives from Town and Parish Councils, Civic Societies and Neighbourhood Planning Forums this is a great opportunity to discover practical ways communities can work to improve and manage their conservation areas.

September 21st - Stamford, East Midlands Register here.
October 3rd - London, Register here.
October 4th - Canterbury, South East Register here.
October 7th - Bristol, Register here.
November 9th - Birkenhead, North West Register (Details TBC)
November 11th - Coventry, West Midlands (Details TBC)

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Civic Voice team visit Sunbridge Wells ahead of tour with YHACS

Photograph: Graham Hall and Sarah James Si Cunningham and Laura Sandys

(left) Graham Hall (owner, Sunbridge Wells) Sarah James, Civic Voice.
(right) Si Cunningham (Bradford Civic Society collecting the Sunbridge Wells award from Laura Sandys)

Sunbridge Wells, Bradford, was highly commended in the Civic Voice Design Award 2017. It is a truly unique complex of boutique shops, café bars, restaurants and craft market stalls housed in a long-forgotten network of historic tunnels underneath Bradford City Centre.

Bradford Civic Society nominated the scheme after being blown away by the sheer amount of effort, passion and attention-to-detail invested in this unique project. They simply believe there's nothing like it in the UK, and they are proud to have it in their patch. This week, Sarah James and Lisa Crisp-Ullah from the Civic Voice team visited Sunbridge Wells at the invitation of Graham Hall

Originally a 13th century quarry, the tunnels have a remarkable history. In more recent years the tunnels lay abandoned and sealed off, with only a dilapidated door off Centenary Square that most people wouldn't have even noticed. But then local developer Graham Hall had a vision: to remodel the tunnels and adjoining derelict buildings as a three-storey leisure complex housing independent shops and young, creative entrepreneurs on flexible terms. After a painstaking programme of excavation, restoration and innovation, the tunnels once again welcomed hordes of curious Bradfordians in December 2016 – with parts of it being opened up again for the first time in over a century.

The result is a delightful subterranean shopping and leisure project, the likes of which you'd struggle to find in any other UK city. To date, the complex houses specialty bars and cafes, a handful of boutique shops, and a collection of market stalls – with more units set to open this year, including the historic Rose & Crown pub (and its original 1870 sign!) which fronts onto Bradford's oldest street (Ivegate).

At its wonderfully restored (and rather grand) Victorian entrance, Sunbridge Wells declares "Welcome to a world of pure imagination..." which just about sums up the fantastic nature of this remarkable project.

Civic Voice is organising a study tour with YHACS. More information here.

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Civic Voice team ask "Are you using all your benefits?"

Photograph: Civic Voice team

Civic societies are at the heart of Civic Voice. It is your organisation. You will decide our priorities and benefit from our campaigns. We will help on the issues that matter to you. The majority of our trustees are elected by civic societies. Civic societies across the country are joining Civic Voice and building a new future for the civic movement. Be one of them.

By joining Civic Voice you are part a national civic movement, giving you a national voice. Some benefits include:

1. Giving you a voice on national matters: All Party Parliamentary Group - The APPG for Civic Societies was established to represent the civic society movement in Parliament and help make the movement’s voice heard. Only Civic Voice members will be added to Civic Voice's invite list for APPG meetings in 2017-2018.
2. Giving you benefits to pass on to your members: National Trust day pass - Members of civic societies who join Civic Voice will be eligible for a free day access pass to the National Trust (worth up to £14). If they are already members this can be given to a friend or relative. 25,000 passes have been accessed by civic societies already!
3. Celebrating the best of the movement: Marsh Civic Awards with the chance to win £1000 to recognise the Outstanding Civic Society in the country - The Marsh Awards are in partnership with Civic Voice and are presented each year at the Civic Voice Annual Convention.
4. Keeping you connected: Civic Update - This is our weekly news update giving you all the latest news and updates on all things "civic" - going forward, only registered civic society will be eligible to recieve update and our briefings and publications.
5. Saving your Money: Insurance with Lockton - Member civic societies are able to benefit from a choice of insurance packages which have been specially designed for civic society activities and can save you on average £100.
If your name is not on the list with our membership team, you will not longer be able to access our benefits. Are you accessing all your benefits? Check them out here.

Join Civic Voice today here.

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Membership News

This section of civic update aims to give you a snap shot of what our members are doing locally to promote civic pride in their area. If you are a member of Civic Voice and are proud of what you have done this week or have a query that you wouldlike us to include, send us your story here.

Join the movement!


Stamford Civic Society to explain why and how Stamford became the first conservation area

Photograph: Stamford Conservation Area

Stamford Conservation Area designated in 1967

In 1967 Stamford became the country’s first Conservation Area. Why and how did this happen and why was it so important then?

As part of the Stamford 50 local celebrations Stamford Civic Society is holding an exhibition which aims to answer these questions and looks at why conservation is still important today. The exhibition will be held at Stamford Arts Centre, 20 – 28 September.

The exhibition will illustrate Stamford’s wonderful architectural heritage and highlight the role of national and local people in tackling the threats to historic environments, prevalent in the 1960s, of rapid development and heavy traffic. Memories of local people of the town before the Conservation Area came into being will be displayed.

The Bill became law when the Civic Amenities Act was granted Royal Assent on 27 July 1967 and introduced the concept of Conservation Areas.

Read more here.

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Tamworth and District Civic Society Conservation Area Anniversary Talk

Photograph:Sushil Birdi and John Somers of Tamworth Borough Council with Civic Society Chairman David Biggs and Tamworth's Deputy Mayor Peter Thurgood

John Somers and Sushil Birdi of Tamworth Borough Council with Civic Society Chairman David Biggs and Tamworth's Deputy Mayor Peter Thurgood. (Photograph by Susan Biggs)

The Tamworth and District Civic Society marked the 50th anniversary of the introduction of conservation areas into the UK under the Civic Amenities Act 1967 with a presentation on today's historic environment. It was delivered by Tamworth Borough Council's Conservation Officer John Somers in the stunning heritage location of St. George's Chapel within Tamworth Parish Church. Among those present was Dr. Geoff Noon the founder Chairman of the Tamworth Conservation Area Advisory Committee which the former Tamworth Civic Society successfully campaigned to establish after it was formed in 1973.

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David Evans visits Oxton Society to have a "Big Conservation Conversation"

In 1979, Wirral Council established Oxton Village as a Conservation Area, in order to preserve and enhance the village’s distinctive character. Soon afterwards the Oxton Society, a registered charity, was founded to promote the Conservation Area. The Society works in partnership with the Wirral Council, local businesses and the community to pursue this objective.

Oxton collaborate with the Council over planning applications, village development and management of trees. They also work with local businesses (who support our events) to help sustain commercial activity in the village. Over the years the Society has expanded its activities.

They take a great interest in the past, present & future. They recently invited David Evans, Civic Voice Trustee to give a talk on the work of the wider civic movement and the Big Conservation Conversation. During his talk, David described the role of Civic Voice in promoting civic pride, working with government at all levels on key issues and rewarding good design practice nationwide. He explained the importance of societies coming together under one voice with Civic Voice. He highlighted the importance of partnership working to achieve great results and praised the work of the Society in raising over £240,000 for local charities and over £40,000 for village improvements, including:

• Design Awards for improvements that enhance the quality of the area
• Christmas Lights in partnership with local businesses
• Hanging flower baskets
• Village Notice Board
• Dog dirt bags in 12 dispensers
• Tree Planting Fund

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Southport Civic Society querying consultation process by Sefton Council

Sefton Council plans to replace the badly worn red surface on the famous Lord Street - saying it has become “potentially dangerous” - with black tarmac in a bid to save money. The historic boulevard is famous for its quirky red asphalt, a feature on thousands of postcards across many generations, and a key characteristic of its Conservation Area.

Southport Civic Society is among those urging the council to reconsider its decision. They said: "Lord Street is a nationally recognised Conservation Area, on a par with Princes Street, Edinburgh and proper consultation must take place on this issue, which will so visibly transform the Conservation Area.

The simple fact is black tarmac will lessen the distinctiveness of Lord Street and therefore harm and cause detriment to this Conservation Area. We accept the Council have extreme budget pressures, but we have not seen the cost differential between black and red tarmac and there could be other ways to raise additional funds, for example via the BID or crowd-funding.

As a minimum our voice should be heard. This is about taking care of our built environment, taking extra care of our Conservation Areas and accepting that special areas deserve special thought and attention."

To support civic societies in matters like this on the public ream, we would recommend our publication "Street Design for All". The booklet has been designed to be read by Civic Voice members. No specialist knowledge is required and it is intended to empower people to make real changes by engaging with decision makers. This is best done by having a long term strategy which is carried out through regular, modest incremental improvements.

Download Street Design for All here.

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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 chair 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.