Civic Update

17 November 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 the nation gathered together to observe Armistice Day and remember the fallen of the two world wars. During the day, remembrance ceremonies were held at war memorials across the country as we came together to say "We will remember them".

Throughout the First World War Centenary 2014-2018, Civic Voice and others have been working with communities on a programme of recording, research, conservation and listing that ensures war memorials across Britain are protected and that communities continue to be commemorated and remembered. This week, to time with the national events, Wakefield Civic Society unveiled a plaque in honour of the the only woman buried among 10,000 men at Lijssenthoek Cemetery. If you are not involved in the campaign to save the nation's war memorials, please do help remember the fallen by supporting our national campaign. Sign up here.

In other news this week, we were delighted to hear that Birmingham Civic Society is to be awarded £55,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help celebrate 100 years of the civic movement in Birmingham.

PS We are also looking for volunteers to join our Big Conservation Conversation campaign. Help us make the case for conservation areas and sign up here.


Wakefield Civic Society unveils a blue plaque to commemorate the life of Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler, killed by shell fire during the Battle of Passchendaele

Photograph: Kevin Trickett, President of Wakefield Civic Society and members of the Spindler family

At a service of remembrance at Wakefield Cathedral on Sunday, 12th November, Wakefield Civic Society unveiled a blue plaque to Wakefield-born staff nurse Nellie Spindler who was killed at Brandhoek on 21st August 1917 while serving as a nurse with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service during the Battle of Passchendaele. She was buried with full military honours at the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Lijssenthoek, the only woman buried there among over 10,000 men.

The plaque was unveiled by Margaret Rose Truelove, Nellie Spindler’s niece, at the service which was also attended by other members of the Spindler family. Professor Christine Hallett, author a book, The Nurses of Passchendaele, also spoke at the service about nurses who served over in Europe during the war.

On Wednesday, 15th November, with the plaque fixed in place above a shop that now occupies the land where the Spindler home used to stand, the Society held a small but well attended ceremony to speak about the plaque and Nellie’s life. The event drew a crowd of around 30 local residents together with members of the Spindler family. TV crews from ITV and BBC were also there to record the event as were local newspapers.

The plaque was funded by Wakefield District Housing who also gave permission for the plaque to be affixed to their property.

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£55,700 Lottery backing for Birmingham Civic Society's centenary celebrations

A project to celebrate Birmingham's heritage which will see a famous city statue restored to its former glory has received vital funding from The National Lottery.

Civic Voice member, Birmingham Civic Society is planning to carry out a range of initiatives next year to mark its centenary and has been boosted by the award of £55,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The centenary programme includes plans to conserve the Queen Victoria statue, in Victoria Square, which was created by sculptor Thomas Brock and unveiled on January 10, 1901, just 12 days before her death.

Other planned projects include a blue plaque film project for young people, outdoor temporary exhibition, a citywide heritage trail, installing four new blue plaques to commemorate notable citizens and delivering tours, talks and family activities.

Gavin Orton, chairman of Birmingham Civic Society and Trustee of Civic Voice, said: "The National Lottery grant is fantastic news as it will greatly increase the scope of heritage activities we can deliver during our centenary year.

"While we will be celebrating our past achievements, just as importantly we want to work with young people to explore some of the hidden histories of the city and invite their views and hopes for the present and future of Birmingham."

Read more here.

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Civic Voice study visit to Coventry's "Far Gosford Street Conservation Area"

Photograph: Visitors viewing the conservation area Photograph: Visitors in conservation area

Last weekend, the civic movement headed to the West Midlands for a study visit in Coventry's Far Gosford Street Conservation Area. Civic Voice made a visit to celebrate the visionary work being done by local partners to put Far Gosford Street Conservation Area at the heart of the regeneration of Coventry. Far Gosford Street is one of Coventry’s most historic quarters with buildings dating from the 16th century and the council’s plans to regenerate the area are really quite visionary.

With the help of Coventry City Council, The Coventry Society and Harrabin Developments, our study tour highlighted and reviewed the positives (and the challenges) facing Far Gosford Street Conservation Area. The vision for Far Gosford Street is to create a street wide quality heritage environment that is the setting for creative and alternative businesses - a bohemian quarter for the city, attracting a much wider mix of visitors to both day time and evening attractions. Read more about it here.

We organise study tours to consider how conservation areas can play a role in supporting the regeneration of our towns and cities. The future of conservation areas areas is a key concern for the civic movement so we use the sessions to find out how conservation areas are facing across the country in the current climate and discuss how they can play more of a role in economic regeneration. The visits are very much a learning experience to consider what’s working in a local area, what isn’t, and how we can tackle any barriers to supporting the long term future of these historic areas.

We encourage all civic societies to work with Civic Voice on arranging tours. Do you want to host a study visit to a local conservation area in your town? Get in touch with Civic Voice here.

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Chairwoman of Civic Voice speaks at "Conservation Areas at 50 Conference" in Chester

Picture: Joan Humble, Chair of Civic Voice addressing delegates at the Chester conference

Joan Humble, Chair of Civic Voice addressing delegates at the Chester conference

Joan Humble, Chairwoman, Civic Voice, gave the opening address this week at an event sponsored by Insall Architects and Chester Civic Trust. The event was to celebrate 50 years of Conservation Areas.

Joan explained that of particular concern for the civic movement and Historic England is the high number of Conservation Areas on the Register in the 50th anniversary year. 47 Conservation Areas were added this year, making a total 512 at risk.

The 2017 Heritage at Risk survey published by Historic England shows the downward trend in the deteriorating quality of England's conservation areas has continued. Whilst we know that the historic environment is important to economic regeneration, the standard is continuing to decline. With funding cuts. we need to be thinking about new ways to enhance and help conservation areas look to the future.

Joan Humble said: "Conservation areas are our everyday heritage abut they should be treated as national treasures. We know the historic environment is good for us but the increasing number of conservation areas being added to the heritage at risk register is a significant warning to us all. We can't ignore this and the civic movement won't. I look forward to visiting even more civic societies in the next 12 months as we continue to make the case for conservation areas."

Search the Heritage at Risk Register for 2017 here.

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What is an outstanding conservation area? Is Stamford the best conservation area?

Photograph: Stamford main street

Last week we asked regular readers of civic update if they had been aware of any outstanding conservation areas. It turns out, the Outstanding Conservation Area term was introduced as a tool to encourage local authorities to nominate more conservation areas in the 1970s. We have been approached by contacts in Castlefield (Manchester) and Wooton Under Edge (Somerset) who confirm with us that they had both been designated “outstanding conservation areas”.

But as Harrogate Civic Society say, how do we assess the best?

Maybe we can't, but we can learn from Hackney Council who have developed a methodology to appraise and understand the significance of their conservation areas. Together with Butler Hegarty Architects, a consultant used by Hackney Council, they have used a methodology recently to review Hackney’s existing and potential Conservation Areas. The aims of the Hackney Conservation Area Review was to identify those areas of the Borough which should still be Conservation Areas and to guide the future management of Conservation Areas in a way which preserves and enhances their significance. In order to guide the direction of the Study, engagement took place with local community groups. Meetings were held with representatives from the Heritage Champion, the Conservation Areas Advisory Committees, the Hackney Society, the Hackney Historic Buildings Trust, and other amenity groups.

You can learn more about what Hackney are doing here.

How can we raise the standard of conservation areas? Can we ever find the "best conservation area". We would love to hear your thoughts. Send them into Civic Voice

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A Local Heritage List? Should we do it? Sarah James shares her thoughts!

Photograph: Sarah James with Kevin Trickett talking about a local heritage list workshop ahead of the Civic Voice convention.

Sarah James with Kevin Trickett talking about a local heritage list workshop ahead of the Civic Voice convention.

Sarah James, Civic Voice Senior Development Officer, (who produced a dissertation at Oxford Brookes University on Local Heritage Listing) has put together an article for civic update setting out the benefits of having a Local Heritage List for your local planning authority.

Many Civic Societies including Peterborough, Marple and Blackpool have all been involved in producing a Local Heritage List. It is also a Civic Voice campaign to see more community generated local lists. So what is it? A local heritage list is managed by the local authority and, whilst placing a building on the local list does not give a building any additional legal protection, it does mean that the heritage value of a locally listed heritage asset is a material consideration in determining planning applications.

Heritage assets included on the local list are not subject to any additional planning controls over alteration or demolition. Where a planning application is needed, or allocation proposed within a Local Plan, then its inclusion on the Local List will be a “material consideration” i.e. the heritage asset's local architectural or historic interest and heritage significance will be taken into account when making a decision on the development proposals.

According to National Planning Policy Guidance, Local lists incorporated into Local Plans can be a positive way for the local planning authority to identify non-designated heritage assets against consistent criteria so as to improve the predictability of the potential for sustainable development. You can view the national guidance on Local Lists here.

Interested in learning more about Local Heritage Lists, why not watch this short video produced by Historic England explaining the benefit. Watch it here.

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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.