Civic Update

24 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.

In the week that The Barbican, Plymouth became the second conservation area to reach its 50th anniversary, Laura Sandys and the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies contacted MPs across England who all have conservation areas on the Heritage at Risk register in their constituencies. We have invited them to the next All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies meeting that will be taking place in the Houses of Parliament on January 31st. This meeting will be invitation only and for Civic Voice members.

This meeting will discuss the impact of funding cuts on conservation areas. We will be using the meeting to talk about groups such as Bollington Civic Society who are having to undertake, at their own expense, a consultation to expand a local conservation area. We will be talking about the City of Winchester Trust who are considering implementing a Local Heritage List by galvanising volunteers. We will be highlighting The Deal Society who are leading the way with conservation area appraisals.

To coincide with the Barbican, Plymouth celebrating 50 years, Civic Voice is publishing new research (see here) to let communities have easy access to find out it their local conservation area is due to celebrate a 50th anniversary in the next few years. We want to stimulate local "conservation conversations". Find out if a conservation area you know is celebrating in the next 18 months. We are working on a toolkit to help you celebrate so do let us know!

Civic societies across the country are filling a gap left since the 37% reduction in conservation officers across England. Following on from the budget, we are going to have to expect further pressure on local government in future years. We need your help. We are looking for more volunteers to join our Big Conservation Conversation campaign to help us make the case for conservation areas. If you can spare a few hours a week, please sign up here.


Civic Voice highlight the first 400 areas to be designated as conservation areas

Photograph: Barbican waterfront area

The Barbican Conservation Area, Plymouth was first designated on 21 November 1967 and was the second conservation area in England to be so designated. Stamford, Lincolnshire was the first.

The original Barbican Conservation Area was designated in 1967, and extended in 1977. It includes the greater part of the historic core of Plymouth that survived wartime destruction and post-war redevelopment, and defines much of the historic town as it developed from the late 13th to the 18th century. The Council’s approach for The Barbican, consistent with its Core Strategy, is to see it conserved and enhanced as a predominantly residential area, while safeguarding and improving its role as a hub for cultural, leisure and tourism related uses and protecting and strengthening its local centres.

You can download The Barbican Conservation Area appraisal and management plan here and looking to the future, The Barbican is part of a Heritage Action Zone bid into Historic England. Read more here.

To coincide with the second conservation area designation, Civic Voice is publishing new research to let communities have easy access to find our it their local conservation area is due to celebrate a 50th anniversaries in the next few years. It is a perfect opportunity for communities to focus around the anniversary and say My Conservation Area Matters.

You can see a list of the first 400 conservation areas to be designated here.

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Say “My Conservation Area Matters” for National Civic Day 2018

Photograph: Group wearing Civic Dat shirts

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 according to Historic England research, 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 can help councils, civic groups and communities to preserve what's really special for future generations to enjoy.

We want National Civic Day to be the national opportunity for members of the local community to get involved with protecting and enhancing their conservation area, either individually or through groups. In previous years. groups have helped to prepare character appraisals and management plans for conservation areas whilst others have carried out their own assessments to identify management issues.

Bolsover Civic Society this week informed us that they are getting involved in National Civic Day 2018. They will be highlighting a supermarket development that being planned for a conservation area in Bolsover so an activity they are considering is raising awareness of the impact of modern amenities on historic areas and how to retain aspects of its history.

Say "My Conservation Area Matters" and support National Civic Day 2018. Register here.

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Dronfield Civic Society say over development in gardens is No. 1 risk to Dronfield's conservation areas. Do you agree?

Dronfield Civic Society’s John Hinchcliffe this week spoke to us about concerns they have for the future of their local conservation areas. Dronfield Civic Society inform us that due to a lack of resources, developments are going through without being given the necessary attention and that enforcement is not being implemented adequatlyy by the local authority.

Ian Harvey said: "Dronfield has three Conservation Areas: Dronfield Town Centre & Dronfield Bottom, Coal Aston and Dronfield Woodhouse. Dronfield Conservation Area was first designated in 1971, extended in 1980 and again in 1991. Dronfield Woodhouse was designated in 1990 and Coal Aston in 1983. All were subjected to Character Statements by the District Council. The civic movement is not against development, but excessive over-development on garden sites is changing the character of conservation areas. It is a broken window effect. People may not see the impact overnight, but over time, these changes cannot be reversed. Garden infill when it occurs needs to be appropriate to the area and have a sensible density of housing and character. We are worried that this is not the case in our conservation area."

We believe Dronfield Civic Society have raised an important point, so we want to ask you to consider the following questions and to have a discussion locally:

•Is it ever appropriate for the character of developments in a Conservation Area to be significantly different from the style and materials of existing structures?
•If so, what criteria should be applied in approving such developments?
•If all or part of a Conservation Area has become derelict or in generally poor condition, should different criteria be applied in considering its redevelopment?
•Under what circumstances would it be appropriate to support the withdrawal of Conservation Area status?
•Are there examples in your district where designation as a Conservation Area has encouraged significantly better building and public realm maintenance?
•Are there examples in your district where designation as a Conservation Area has hindered property improvements or prevented developments that would have benefited the local community?

We would welcome hearing from civic societies and others on these questions! Let us know at and we may launch a bigger study!

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Do we need a "Can do better in a Conservation Area Award"?

Picture: Black tarmac and double yellow lines in conservation area

The Carbuncle Cup was started by Building Design in 2006 as a way to draw attention to the bad architecture that blights our towns and cities. Past winners have included Liverpool’s ferry terminal, the renovation of the Cutty Sark and an apartment block incorporating a Tesco’s in Woolwich, south-east London.

And we want to ask you, should we have a Can do better in a Conservation Award? This was suggested by Simon Thurley (ex CEO of English Heritage) when he gave the 2015 Sandys Lecture and said civic societies should be invited to name and shame bad developments and inappropriate action.

Why do we bring this up today? Because the idea has been suggested from civic volunteers during workshops we have held. Individuals believe it could be another way to shine light on what is happening across the country. The picture above is from Cartmel conservation area in Cumbria... surely this could have been done better with a little bit of attention. Yellow lines can be unsightly and out of character, particularly in historic settings. Where necessary they should be applied sensitively. Variations to the width and the tint of the colour of the lines are allowed. The standard width of yellow lines is 100mm, but narrower 50mm lines are permitted where the highway authority consider them to be suitable.

We certainly do not want to embarrass or shame any local authority, but could we do something to help highlight and bring to bear what you are telling us about the funding cuts to conservation departments? Let us know your thoughts on this idea.

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Paul Bedwell speaks on "Conservation Areas at 50" in Dronfield

Paul Bedwell, Trustee of Civic Voice, gave a talk this week to the Dronfield Civic Society with a talk focusing on 50 years of Conservation Areas.

Paul 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.

During his talk, Paul 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 Civic Voice continues to make the case for conservation areas."

Search the Heritage at Risk Register for 2017 here.

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Can modern design be appropriate to Conservation Areas?

Photograph: Warwick Hall Community Centre

In the joint survey between Historic England, Civic Voice and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, we asked civic volunteers whether "In your opinion, can modern design be appropriate to Conservation Areas? 96% of civic volunteers said that modern design can be appropriate in Conservation Areas. See the results here (question 22).

The Civic Voice Design Awards are trying to raise the profile of new developments in conservation areas across the country that positively enhance the local area. One scheme, Burford community centre (pictured above) is a perfect example of a new development in a sensitive location.

Well managed Conservation Areas ensure that the best of our heritage is kept for future generations, they help ensure that every place retains as much as possible of its own unique identity. That’s a particular asset for anyone whose business involves visitors.

The Civic Design Awards are the ‘people’s choice for architecture and the built environment’, showcasing examples of high quality development across England that have been nominated and supported by the local community. A new development in Burford, Oxfordshire – Warwick Hall Community Centre was a 2017 Civic Voice Design Awards winner, winning both the New Buildings category and a Special Conservation Area Award. This case study here examines the project in more detail, demonstrating that that high-quality development can be achieved within a conservation area.

We want to see your examples of high quality design in a conservation area and to show us how modern design can be appropriate in a conservation area!

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Why is a Local Heritage List relevant to my local conservation area?

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.

Another tool available to community groups to enhance your local conservation area as part of our Big Conservation Conversation is through our "Local Heritage List" campaign.

Sarah James, Civic Voice Membership 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?

Local heritage listing is a means for a community and a local authority to jointly identify heritage assets that are valued as distinctive elements of the local historic environment. The Local Heritage List identifies those heritage assets that are not protected by statutory national designations but are of local heritage interest, contributing to the sense of place and history of the local area. Preparing a local heritage list means that the significance of heritage assets on the list is given due consideration by the Local Planning Authority, when change is being proposed.

Why is this relevant to the Big Conservation Conversation?

Whilst local listing provides no additional planning controls, the fact that a building or site is on a local list means that national planning policy (National Planning Policy Framework) requires its conservation as a heritage asset to be taken into account as a material consideration when determining the outcome of a planning application, giving it greater protection.

Local heritage assets can be identified within conservation areas and there is some evidence of planning appeals indicating that local heritage assets within conservation areas are more strongly protected from demolition than those which are not.

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Get Involved!

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Photograph: Group of conservationists

Regional War Memorials workshops

Photograph: Group holding 'save our memorials' banner

Trustees' Roadshow

Photograph: Trustees

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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.