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Civic Update

21 April 2017

That was the week that was. We started the week out with eating Easter eggs and celebrating Civic Voice’s 7th anniversary and we have ended up with a General Election!

Theresa May surprised the nation by calling a General Election on June 8th and whilst the main issues that will be debated by the different political parties may be beyond the remit of the civic movement, we do feel that with us celebrating 50 years of conservation areas, this is a good opportunity to continue to make the case for continued focus on the built and historic environment.

We have already had discussions with individual societies about what this all means and how you can play a role. What we would say is, if you are already thinking about how to engage in the election, why not have a look at our Manifesto from 2015 here and download our briefing on how to run a local manifesto meeting here. If you are thinking about any events, let us know so we can promote them wider and engage as many people in hearing the united "Civic Voice".

In the coming weeks, Civic Voice will be making more announcements around the election, but, now is the time that we need your support. It doesn't matter if you are a civic society, individual, corporate organisation or charity, if you love where you live and want to get to involved in making it a better place, we want to hear from you. We have membership packages for everyone (See here). If you would like to learn more about what Civic Voice can do for you click here.


Civic Voice Chairwoman to celebrate Stamford at 50

Photograph: Joan Humble speaking

Chairwoman, Joan Humble speaking at a recent APPG for Civic Societies event

In 2017 and with the support of Civic Voice Vice President, Laura Sandys, the civic movement will be raising awareness of the 50th anniversary of Conservation Areas. This week, we are delighted to confirm that Joan Humble will be speaking at a national event in Stamford on September 21 to celebrate 50 years of conservation areas.

Designated in 1967, the first conservation area was Stamford in Lincolnshire. A thriving and economically vibrant town, Stamford is a still big draw for tourists today and there’s no questioning its special historic character.

The Society is working with other organisations to coordinate an exciting programme of events to celebrate Stamford’s designation as the first Conservation Area in 1967. This includes a national conference being supported by Civic Voice, Historic England and Bidwells.

Stamford Civic Society's own programme will also include:

Sign up today to join our newsletter which will keep people updated on our activities here.

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Dronfield Society launches "Conservation Conversation" leaflet

Dronfield heading and statement

Dronfield Civic Society was founded in 1989. It has an increasing membership of more than 200 people and is supported by local businesses, schools and other Dronfield societies. Annual membership is £8 for individuals and £12 for families. The society also offers life membership, business membership and sponsorship.

Dronfield is a small market town with many other voluntary groups and charitable organisations. It has recently been ranked 9th in the top ten best places to live in the UK, so there is a good deal of civic pride within the town and its environs. Dronfield has three Conservation Areas which had Character Appraisal Statements produced in the early 2000s and which are now very out of date.

This year the society will be taking part in the Big Conservation Conversation and national Civic Day on June 17th to raise awareness of Conservation Areas. They are proposing to work in co-operation with Dronfield Heritage Trust, a partner organisation in the town, to update the Dronfield Conservation Area Character Statement which was published in 2000. This will then be made available to the local planning authority. A Conservation Area designation places a statutory duty on local planning authorities to pay special attention to preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of conservation areas when undertaking their planning duties; they must from time to time formulate and publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of their conservation areas, submitting these for public consideration.

To help with celebrating the local conservation area, Dronfield Civic Society has published a new leaflet, "Conservation Conversation" with funding supported from IHBC. View the leaflet here.

Would you like a workshop on 50 years of Conservation Areas in your area and how you can play a part in saying, "My Conservation Area Matters" get in touch here.

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Local Heritage Lists: Be inspired by the "Coventry Checklist

Did you know that a building on a local list is a material consideration in a planning application? Be inspired by the "Coventry Checklist"

This week we met with Coventry Council to hear how they are using the "Coventry Checklist" to take forward its Local Heritage List. Many civic societies have helped compile a Local Heritage List and are using it to ensure they have an extra "tool" to champion the local historic environment. Whilst local listing provides no additional planning controls, the fact that a building or site is on a local list means that its conservation as a heritage asset is an objective of the NPPF(2) and a material consideration when determining the outcome of a planning application.

The Local Listing criteria that Coventry has put together (as well as the Local List itself) are all available on Coventry City Council's website here: The criteria and nomination forms can be accessed on the Nominate a local list heritage asset page. This is the type of information civic societies should be sharing with their own local council.

Historic England will be holding training via the HELM programme to help communities understand the Local Heritage List process. Why not go along? Learn more and put your "local" heritage on the list!

Most Historic England historic environment courses are aimed at local authority staff, but two future events are specifically on the subject of local heritage listing and Historic England are extending invitations to Civic Voice members. The two courses are:

More information here about Local Heritage Lists here.

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Feed into Civic Voice's response to the Housing White Paper

Photograph: Max Farrell

Max Farrell, Civic Voice Design Awards chair judge and Partner at Farrells addresses delegates at recent APPG for Civic Societies debating the planning system

In February, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Civic Societies debated proposals made within the Housing White Paper with a number of civic societies and MPs attending to share their thoughts. You can see a report from the event here.

View the Housing White Paper here.

We want even more of the civic movement to feed into our response on proposals made within the Housing White Paper. We have developed a survey which will allow you to have your say. You can take the survey here. Please read through the word document version of the survey first so you have an idea of what kind of questions you will be asked. You can read that here.

Civic Voice, as the authoritative voice for the civic movement, is holding this consultation on selected elements of the Housing White paper to inform a national civic movement response.

We will be continuing to debate the Housing White Paper in Parliament, through our APPG for Civic Societies. We want you to decide which topic in the Housing White Paper you would like us to discuss. Vote on what you want us to debate next here

We are also asking you to invite your MP to become a member of the APPG for Civic Societies. We have created a template letter for you to use to ask your MP to join. See the invite here.

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Sessay celebrates 50 years of Conservation Areas in England

Photograph: Sessay meeting

Sessay is a small, linear village and civil parish in North Yorkshire, England. It is situated approximately 4 miles south-east from Thirsk.

On the 11th April Hambleton District Council agreed that the community of Sessay should have their say on a proposed Conservation Area that could see it becoming the latest designation in England, precisely 50 years after the first Conservation Area was established in Stamford, Lincolnshire in September 1967.

Information gathered during a five year Heritage Lottery Funded project has been used by Sessay Parish Council to drive forward the case for a Conservation Area to Hambleton District Council, making this a truly community inspired initiative.

Enthusiastic locals researched and produced a 70 panel village history exhibition, then, earlier this year, published a book on the history of their village called ‘Essays from Sessay’.

Residents will now have their say during a six week public consultation period. Hambleton District Council is due to make a final decision whether to designate in September, coinciding with the very first conservation area designation in England 50 years previously.

Deborah Wall - Historic Places Principal at Historic England (Yorkshire Region) said:

“The conservation areas of Yorkshire help to tell our fascinating and varied history. In this 50th Anniversary year of the Civic Amenities Act 1967 it is great to see local communities like Sessay taking such an active role in the assessment and future care of their area.”

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Renew your Civic Voice membership now

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.

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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, email your story to

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Rainhill Civic Society to make visit to the National Memorial Arboretum.

Picture: National Memorial Arboretum

National Memorial Arboretum

Rainhill Civic Society will be making a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA), Staffordshire in May as part of the society's regular excursions to learn more about external venues.

The NMA is the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice and fosters pride in our country. A new £15.7m Remembrance Centre engages materially with its environment with a soft material concept of larch timber and natural stone. The centre provides a gateway into the 150-acre arboretum and is also home to exhibition, interpretation and retail spaces, restaurant, café and learning centre.

The Remembrance Centre has been well received by the local community – visitor numbers are up by 59%, catering income is up by 79% and retail income is up 73% after the first few months since opening.

The NMA is not and was never owned by government or private company. It was created and run by volunteers who numbered thousands, as well as a small paid group, a steadfast Friends of the National Memorial Arboretum and numerous others who planted individual trees or helped create a memorial for their organisation.

Rainhill will be learning that throughout the design process for the Remembrance Centre a series of Working Group meetings were held with the client and future building users in order to develop the brief in more detail and to fulfill the aspirations for several key areas of the project including access, exhibition, learning, retail, catering and integration into the landscape. Fundamentally, from the outset, it was clear to the whole design team that this project had far more significance than a normal construction project. Not only was funding being generated by people and organisations who were passionate about the NMA, but the design team were acutely aware that they were being tasked with providing a dignified building to receive those remembering lost friends and relatives.

Civic Voice have contacts with the NMA and would be happy to facilitate visits for civic societies to learn more how the new contemporary Remembrance Centre has transformed the National Memorial Arboretum's visitor offer by providing a warm and inviting space for reflection, memorial and the celebration of life, to be enjoyed by people from all walks of life and from all generations.

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Sheffield Civic Trust hold Design Review

Photograph:  Left to right: Sheffield Civic Trust and Civic Voice Trustee, Paul Bedwell with Civic Voice President, Griff Rhys Jones on a visit to a Sheffield regeneration scheme

Left to right: Sheffield Civic Trust and Civic Voice Trustee, Paul Bedwell with Civic Voice President, Griff Rhys Jones on a visit to a Sheffield regeneration scheme

Sheffield Civic Trust (SCT) is an active, growing volunteer organisation that strives to make Sheffield a better place to live, work and visit. This week, they held a "Design Review" to test and evaluate opinions and issues raised by two new planning proposals brought forward by the University of Sheffield.

The two schemes reviewed are the proposed new social sciences building and the plan for a new Goodwin Sports Centre.

Plans have been submitted for a new four-storey social sciences building on Whitham Road in Broomhill, opposite Weston Park Hospital on land currently used as university sports pitches. If approved the new building will bring together three departments to create a new social sciences facility that the university says will enable improved interdisciplinary activities. Alongside this, plans have been submitted to build a new Goodwin Sports Centre. This will be built on its current site on Northumberland Road, also in Broomhill, and will update the ageing university sports facility.

The Design Review was held on Wednesday 19 April 2017 in Sheffield. Delegates got together to share opinions about the two schemes and to find out more about the proposals.

So what are they?

Design Review is an independent and impartial process for evaluating the quality of significant developments, urban extensions and major infrastructure projects across England. It is a tried and tested method of ensuring the highest possible quality of development, and is specifically referenced in the government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

As part of the Farrell Review, a recommendation was made to turn Design Review Panels into more "place based" PLACE Review Panels using the acronym to ensure all the key disciplines are represented (Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation and Engineering). What is your experience of the Design Review process? Does it work? Does your civic society contribute to it? Let us know the thoughts and experiences across the civic movement.

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Wimbledon Society set membership target of 1500 members

Wimbledon heading and statement

Civic societies face two types of existential challenge: keeping going and dealing with the external pressures presented by the change that is happening all around us. These challenges are, of course, interlinked. How do you recruit members, secure the services of volunteers and raise funds against a backdrop of social and technological change when people are leading busier and busier lifestyles with more demands on their time than ever? How do you make sure that your civic society maintains its relevance and appeal to current and prospective members? How do you find people willing to run your society, willing to take on responsibility for doing the work and willing to assume leadership roles?

These are all issues being faced by civic societies across the country. One society facing the challenge head on is the Wimbledon Society who have set themselves an objective of increasing society member to 1500 before the end of this decade. To implement this they are offering free membership for a year to members of certain resident’s associations in the expectation that those who take up the offer will continue as paying members.

If you are interested in discussing these issues in your own civic society, do let us know here and Civic Voice would be happy to arrange something similar or why not download the Civic Society Assessment Tool. With the assessment tool you can identify what factors you think your civic society should be concentrating on in order to thrive and be a really successful society.. You can find the self assessment tool here. We are encouraging groups to use this form and send results to us so we can tailor our support and guidance to groups more effectively.

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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 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.