Civic Voice logo

Civic Update

19 May 2017

With less than one month to go until National Civic Day, we start looking at the different activities taking place across the country to celebration local conservation areas. This week we also celebrate the news that Civic Voice has relocated its head office to Birmingham with a new home in "Birmingham's Heritage Hub" at the Coffin Works (located in the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area).

With a 33% reduction in conservation officers in local government since 2008, the civic movement really is the last line of defence to champion the importance of the 10,000 conservation areas across England. Read in this week's civic update what Bath Preservation Trust, City of Winchester Trust and the Yateley Society are all doing to celebrate National Civic Day and protect their local conservation areas.

Showing the civic movement is needed as ever, residents in Stockton are coming together on Monday to discuss setting up a new civic society. More information on this below.

Finally, we have been connecting civic societies together this week through our Regional Forum where we heard about the excellent work being undertaken in Reading to protect local conservation areas. All that and much more.

Sign up to the Big Conservation Conversation and celebrate where you live here.


Civic Voice finds a new home in the Coffin Works, Birmingham

Photograph: Civic volunteers from Alnwick, Sutton Coldfield, Waltham Forest and Newton Abbot on a recent visit to Civic Voice's new Head Office

Civic volunteers from Alnwick, Sutton Coldfield, Waltham Forest and Newton Abbot on a recent visit to Civic Voice's new Head Office

Civic Voice is delighted to announce that we have relocated our office to Birmingham. Following the end of our lease in Liverpool, we are now based in in the Coffin Works, which is a "heritage hub" for the Midlands. Organisations including Heritage Trust Network, Birmingham Conversation Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund are all based here. We see this as an excellent opportunity in the next stage of Civic Voice's story.

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

The Coffin Works is a historic Jewellery Quarter factory which has been brought back to life by Birmingham Conservation Trust. The Newman Brothers' factory, a statutorily listed building situated within the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area, once produced some of the world’s finest coffin furniture, including the fittings for the funerals of Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother. Now a busy museum, with the original machinery working again, visitors can once again, experience how this old Jewellery Quarter firm operated on a day-to-day basis.

To celebrate us moving to the Coffin Works, we are holding an open day on National Civic Day (17th June) for Civic Voice members and guests for tours at 11, 1pm and 3pm. The Coffin Works is also open for Heritage Open Days in September. This will be an excellent opportunity for people to walk around the new workplace and take in this wonderful building.

If you are interested in attending this event, please contact us at

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Laura Sandys calls on civic societies to speak up for conservation

Photograph: Laura Sandys

Laura Sandys

Laura Sandys this week followed up her talk to the Highgate Society by emailing all civic societies across the contry urging them to join Civic Voice. Laura said: “I think it’s great that Civic Voice is holding the Big Conservation Conversation. At a time when Parliamentarians talk Localism, it is really up to the civic movement to make the local voice a national issue. We need civic societies and individuals to join Civic Voice.

Laura is urging civic societies across the country to stand and use their voice to champion local conservation areas. She has asked that civic societies all do their bit by meeting their local parliamentary candidate to ask:

We are delighted that Laura Sandys is involved in our Big Conservation Conversation to celebrate 50 years of Conservation Areas and it is fantastic that she is leading from the front to say #myconservationareamatters.

Join the Big Conservation Conversation here.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * *

Bath Preservation Trust To celebrate 50 years of conservation areas for Civic Day

Photograph: Housing development in Bath, designed by Alison Brooks and nominated by Bath Preservation Trust for a Civic Voice Design Award

Housing development in Bath, designed by Alison Brooks and nominated by Bath Preservation Trust for a Civic Voice Design Award

Bath today has one city wide conservation area which covers 1486 hectares and is home to about 50,000 people. The conservation area includes the city’s unique and much celebrated heritage, but it also encompasses less well known areas which have a range of different characteristics.

Bath’s conservation area was first designated in 1968, following the introduction of the Civic Amenities Act in 1967. It was one of the first six to be designated in the country. The conservation area was enlarged in 1973, extended again in 1975, 1985 and most recently in 2002. These extensions responded to changing conservation views about what was considered to be architecturally and historically important as well as ongoing changes in planning controls. The importance of the area and its surrounds was further recognised by its inscription as a World Heritage Site in 1987. The conservation area today is recognised but despite its longevity there has never been a complete character appraisal of the whole area.

The conservation area will soon celebrate 50 years of designation and it seems fitting to celebrate this by raising awareness of ongoing work to develop a full and comprehensive character appraisal for the conservation area to better understand all aspects of its importance and to support its ongoing and future management.

As part of this year’s Civic Day celebrations on 17 June Bath Preservation Trust would like to invite anyone interested to come to a guided walk around one of the character areas Lower Lansdown and Camden where they will identify and talk about the matters that the character appraisal will address.

The work to complete a character assessment for the city wide conservation area is being developed by B&NES Council with input from heritage experts and the Bath Preservation Trust. There will be further opportunity for the public and local people who are familiar with the heritage of their neighbourhood to review the work and have an input through public participation and consultation.

You can read the briefing report attached ( Conservation Area website copy).

Would you like to get involved? We would value input in drafting the character appraisals for the remaining character areas. If you have a heritage interest and knowledge and are interested in helping with this then please get in touch with:

Joanna Robinson, Bath Preservation Trust

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Reading unites together to celebrate local conservation areas

Photograph: Joan Humble, Chair of Civic Voice, with Karen Rowland, Chair of Reading Conservation Advisory Committee

Joan Humble, Chair of Civic Voice, with Karen
Rowland, Chair of Reading Conservation Advisory

This week we held the latest meeting of the Civic Voice Regional Forum. We were delighted that we were joined by Karen Rowland, Chair of Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee., pictured here with Joan Humble, Chair of Civic Voice.

Karen Rowland and Richard Bennett (Chair of Reading Civic Society) gave a talk highlighting the campaigns taking place in reading to protect local conservation areas. As context there are 15 Conservation Areas in Reading. Many of the Conservation Area Appraisals are out of date, or soon will be, and were prepared by different consultants and as such are not coherent in approach in some respects and are seen by the Planning Department to be of varied level of use. Those close to the town centre & the university are heavily threatened by the march of HMOs and landlords who are either not aware of the implications of CA status, or don’t care. Article 4s have been established in two areas to seek to control the conversion of single homes to HMOs.

In 2016 a number of groups from across Reading ( including Reading Civic Society, Baker Street Area Neighbourhood Association, Katesgrove Residents Association and The Bell Tower Community Association) formed the Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee with the active support of Historic England and Reading Borough Council.

Being evident that the council would find it increasingly difficult to fund updating CA Appraisals. As discussions progressed it became clear that the Deputy Leader of Council felt that re-appraisals undertaken by the community would have greater value and collateral and, providing local consultation was undertaken as part of the process, potentially save time during the end state consultation.

Historic England ran a training event which showed the community how to look at Conservation Areas, and their features, using the Oxford Character Assessment Toolkit as a way of developing re-appraisals and management plans as a community led project.

The work in Reading is an example for all across England that if you come together as partnership, positively engage with the local authority and give volunteers specific projects (with a focus) change can happen.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Second edition of Winchester, Heart of a City to be published to celebrate 50 years of Conservation Areas

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Conservation Area legislation the City of Winchester Trust plans to publish a second edition of Winchester, Heart of City by Andrew Rutter.

Winchester, Heart of a City was a book taking a very detailed look at the conservation area of the city. The city was one of the first in the country to create a conservation area following the destruction of parts of its historic fabric in the 1960s. As the City Council's Conservation Officer for 25 years Andrew Rutter was well placed both to reflect on the success and failures of the conservation area and to highlight the principles that should drive planning and development in historically sensitive towns and cities. He attended the City of Winchester Trust's monthly meetings until his retirement in 1999, and the working relationship that developed between them was undoubtedly of great benefit to the city. His final activity was to carry out a very personal street-by-street conservation review of the city, which formed the basis of a subsequent Conservation Area Appraisal, which the Trust helped to fund.

In his foreword to the book the late Lord Montagu of Beaulieu wrote:

"Winchester is one of the best examples of the benefits of conservation area legislation. It is a tribute to the Council and its officers that the city was one of the first to designate conservation areas and to apply the balanced policy of preservation and enhancement, so that this world famous city has been spared the worst of the damage done in many other places. Amongst those officers who rose to the new challenge, Andrew Rutter is an outstanding example, as I learnt during my chairmanship of English Heritage, when we had the responsibility of monitoring and encouraging the process. It is a great pleasure to me, therefore, to introduce his book and to commend it not only to Wintonians, but to all cities, towns and villages. that value their heritage and wish to manage change so that it enhances rather than only preserves their character."

Winchester - Heart of a City is now out of print but to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Conservation Area legislation the Trust plans to publish a second edition.

Read more here.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Civic Day in Yateley celebrates local conservation areas

Photographic Montage of Civic Day in Yateley

Civic Day in Yateley

The national theme for Civic Day this year is Conservation Areas, commemorating 50 years since the passing of the Civic Amenities Act (1967) which enabled Conservation Areas to be set up. Yateley Civic Society is picking this theme up and celebrating Civic Day this year.

Yateley has three Conservation areas; Yateley Green, Cricket Hill and Darby Green and we are providing guided walks in each, plus a night walk at Castle Bottom SSSI. Celebrations start on the 3rd June with the Party on the Green and conclude on Civic Day the 17th June with an Open Day at Yateley Hall. Click here to see poster: Yateley Civic Day The guided walks will be as follows:-

Darby Green. Monday 5th June at 19.30. Meet in the car park at the Darby Green Centre. Refreshments provided afterwards. Donation of £1 is requested.

Church End Green walk. Thursday 8th June at 14.00. Meet outside the Dog and Partridge. We end up at Café 46. Donation of £1 requested.

Cricket Hill walk. Wednesday 14th June at 10.30. Meet outside the Cricketers on Cricket Hill. Donation of £1 requested.

Castle Bottom walk. Thursday 15th June at 20.30. Meet at Coopers Hill entrance. Parking at Coopers Hill is restrictive so we are providing a Yelabus service from The Tythings car park. Donation of £2 will be required. There is still time to get involved in National Civic Day this year. Download our Civic Day toolkit here. This tool kit is aimed at helping anyone who wants to get involved in Civic Day 2017 and help celebrate where they live.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Get inspired by Alder Hey in the Park - a blog about Alder Hey Hospital from a Civic Voice Design Award judge

Photograph: Civic Voice Design Awards Study Tour to Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool.

Civic Voice Design Awards Study Tour to Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool.

A blog by Sophia de Sousa, a Civic Voice Design Award judge on her recent visit to Alder Hey in the Park as part of the recent Civic Voice Design Award study tour.

An award winner shares their learning

As a member of the judging panel on the Civic Voice Design Awards, it was easy for me to join my fellow judges in our unanimous decision to award Alder Hey Hospital the overall winner of the 2016 Awards. We were keen that this project should serve to inspire others. With this in mind, The Glass-House worked with Civic Voice to design and deliver a study tour to Alder Hey Hospital as part of their series of Design Awards study tours, to showcase past winners and to raise awareness about the importance and impact of great design within a community.

Read the full blog here.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Renew your Civic Voice membership now

Photograph: Lytham St Annes Civic Society presenting Ian Harvey with their membership fee for 2017-18

Lytham St Annes Civic Society presenting Ian Harvey with their membership fee for 2017-18

Have you renewed yet?

We have been busy sending out reminders to all of our members about renewing their membership of Civic Voice. We have now sent renewal forms and contact forms to all of our groups and we want you to get them back to us as soon as possible. This week, Bewdley Civic Society, Blackpool Civic Trust, Desborough Civic Society, the Greenwich Society, Margate Civic Society, Matlock Civic Association and the Wandsworth Society all renewed their membership. 79 of our members have already sent back their renewals so what are you waiting for? Get your renewals in now.

Our hunt for new members

We are also on the hunt for new members. Now is the time to become a member of Civic Voice.

2017 is set to be one of the biggest years for the civic movement with the Big Conservation Conversation celebrating 50 years of conservation areas, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies continuing to give you a voice on a national level and the Civic Voice team continuing to support your civic society in any way we can.

Civic Voice members also receive a number of free gifts. Current offers include a National Trust pass, IHBC magazine on conservation areas (£5 to non members) and the 'History of the Civic Movement' book (£5 to non members).

It doesn't matter if you are a civic society, individual, corporate organisation or charity if you love where you live and want to make a change, we want to hear from you. We have membership packages for everyone. If you would like to learn more about what Civic Voice can do for you click here.

Make sure you renew and don't miss out on what is set to be one of the biggest years yet for the civic movement.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * *

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, email your story to

Join the movement!


Civic Voice Trustee, Paul Bedwell visits Halifax Civic Trust

Picture: Paul Bedwell and others

Paul Bedwell (back row, 3rd left) and others

The Halifax Civic Trust, founded to fight for conservation and good planning in Halifax, runs many other activities including lectures, tours & visits. They take a great interest in their town past, present & future. They recently invited Paul Bedwell, Civic Voice Trustee, to give a talk on the work of the wider civic movement.

As part of his visit to Halifax, Paul learnt that Halifax Civic Trust are a totally independent and non-political body who actively monitor planning and development in Halifax. They have given evidence at a number of Public Inquiries and continue to take a firm line on many important planning matters.

During his talk, Paul 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 also outlined its work on surveying the condition of war memorials as part of the commemoration of the First World War. 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 building partnerships across the town and being an active member of Civic Voice.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Bath Preservation Trust launches new free guidance for owners of listed buildings in Bath: ‘Making Changes'

Bath Preservation Trust has launched a new publication giving guidance on how to make changes to listed buildings in Bath. Endorsed by Historic England and Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Historic Environment team, the Bath-specific publication aims to assist householders who are thinking about changing or adapting their listed building and want guidance on best practice and how to go about getting the relevant permissions.

Authored by the Trust’s Conservation Officer, Joanna Robinson, the easy-to-read guide has two main sections, one looking at an overview of listed buildings and how to approach making changes, and the second looking in detail at individual house features such as paintwork, ironwork, roofs, windows etc. There is also a ‘jargon-busting’ glossary to assist in the understanding the planning system.

Trust Chief Executive, Caroline Kay, said:

“Bath is a very special place and Bath’s 5000 listed properties need specific advice. We are delighted to be able to provide this and are grateful to Historic England and the World Heritage Site Enhancement Fund for supporting the publication of this guidance. The Trust will also continue to give free advice to individual householders by ‘phone or email when we can, so this supplements rather than substitutes for our continuing service to the people of Bath”.

Copies will be given through estate agents, lawyers and architects’ firms to new purchasers of listed buildings in Bath or those intending to make changes to their buildings.

A PDF of the publication can be downloaded (free) here

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Phone Kiosks – Or advertising kiosks? Possible campaign idea for civic movement groups across England

Photograph: Examples of proliferation of phone kiosks in Leeds. Photo credit: Leeds Civic Trust.

Examples of proliferation of phone kiosks in Leeds. Photo credit: Leeds Civic Trust.

Article by Martin Hamilton, Leeds Civic Trust

Can you remember the last time you used a phone box? How many times have you used one in the last year? I thought so! With almost everyone owning a mobile phone, telephone boxes are fast becoming an anachronism. And yet in Leeds, we have just received 36 applications for new phone boxes in city centre locations; this isn’t the first batch to come forward in recent months and it certainly won’t be the last. This is because their primary purpose is no longer to make telephone calls, but to advertise goods and services.

Rules mean that telephone kiosks can be installed with minimal planning oversight – they are covered by permitted development rights, as is the advertising they bear (which is theoretically a temporary consent, but often becomes permanent). This means that local authorities have few powers to stop the march of the phone box. Reasons for refusal may include harm to a conservation area or the setting of a listed building or impeding pedestrian flow, but controlling street clutter is not a reason to refuse. This means that where Councils take a stand and refuse these advertising boxes, cases are often won by the applicant on appeal.

Aside from the issue of street clutter, these boxes frequently fall into a state of disrepair and are often badly designed. And of course they are not used – they may be a haven for spiders (judging by the spiders webs you often find in them!), but have little human use for months on end.

It seems to us in Leeds that the law needs to be changed to give local authorities the power to control the spread of these boxes (which are typically owned by the big advertising companies – a clue if one was needed as to their true purpose) and in so doing, give some power back to local communities.

We would be interested to hear if others have had similar experiences, and whether you would be interested in raising this at a national level. Please get in touch with me here at Leeds Civic Trust.

Martin Hamilton

Director, Leeds Civic Trust

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * *

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

Sign up here to receive monthly news on what national and local events are coming up to celebrate conservation areas.

Civic Day

Sign up here to receive monthly news on what communities are doing to celebrate their local area.

Civic Voice Design Awards News

Sign up here to receive monthly news on planning and housing issues in the UK.

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.