Civic Voice logo

Civic Update

28 April 2017

This week Civic Voice announced the shortlist for the third annual Civic Voice Design Awards. Unique in England, the Civic Voice Design Awards give communities the opportunity to nominate and celebrate well-designed new build, housing, heritage and public realm projects in their local area, that they are proud of.

The judging panel has shortlisted 18 schemes from across England in four categories and the shortlist can be accessed here. The awards are sponsored by British Land and Farrells.

Max Farrell, partner at Farrells said: “I was thrilled to chair the Civic Voice Design Awards once again. They align so well with the recommendations of the Farrell Review of Architecture and the Built Environment published in 2014. It is great to hear the community stories behind the nominated projects and to see architecture and urban design having a tangible positive impact on the lives of people throughout the country.


So what is the Civic Voice Design Award Shortlist for 2017 telling us?

Photograph: Civic Voice Design Awards judges

Civic Voice Design Awards judges

This year the judges commented that six lessons are starting to come through from the Design Awards, that can be applied to almost any other project, no matter how big or small.

Historic Environment is not a barrier to growth - From the shortlisted schemes, we have ten schemes in a Conservation Area and one in a World Heritage Site, showing that the historic environment is an asset not a barrier to growth and high quality new development can be successfully integrated within historic settings.

Partnership working between the public, private and voluntary sectors is key - It is clear from many past winners and this year's shortlist that working in partnership across sectors, can have a positive impact on the quality of the built environment in our towns, villages and cities.

Early collaborative engagement – Real positive examples of community groups being involved at an early stage in the process and influencing the final scheme are starting to emerge but we want see more and for this to become the Civic Voice standard across the country! Read Civic Voice guidance on collaborative planning here.

Leadership and mindset - Individuals in the public, private and voluntary sectors have been at the forefront of schemes, driving forward new ideas by asking, "How can we do this better?" or "What can we do as a community to tackle this problem?"

Paying for an architect, pays results - The judges felt that it was clear when an architect had been commissioned on housing developments and they were encouraged to see Crest Nicholson using Alison Brooks Architects to design a housing scheme in Bath, but questioned, why is this the exception and not the norm?

Finally, we are still not seeing large scale housing developments coming forward that communities are proud of and want to support. The judges wondered whether we ever will?

We will delve into each of these issues over the next few weeks as we lead up to the Civic Voice Design Award ceremony in the summer.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Civic Voice Design Awards judges say "Historic Environment is not a barrier to growth"

Dronfield Hall Barn Cedars Hall, Wells

Left to right: Dronfield Hall Barn, Dronfield and Cedars Hall, Wells - both shortlisted for Civic Voice Design Award 2017

As we celebrate 50 years of the Civic Amenities Act, the Civic Voice Design Award judges decided to introduce a new special award to highlight a well-designed development in a conservation area. From the shortlisted schemes, half of them are in the running for the Conservation Area Special Award and include schemes such as Dronfield Hall and Cedar Hall, Wells (see images).

This says to us that the historic environment is not a barrier to growth and civic societies and community groups will support and champion new development when its been designed to a high standard.

The judges commented that having an up to date conservation area appraisal and management plan is essential for the success of a conservation area. This is a challenge for many local authorities because we know that funding cuts have fallen heavily on planning authorities throughout the country, especially conservation departments. Limited resources have seen a reduction in conservation officers to support and manage areas effectively with a 33% loss of conservation officers since 2008. Birmingham City Council for example have seen their number of conservation officers fall to 2 from 7 who now shoulder the responsibility of 2000 listed buildings and 30 conservation areas across the nation’s second city.

Conservation areas are under threat because in many cases they are not being managed. They are not being managed appropriately because funding is being cut. It is a vicious circle.

Under 50% of conservation areas have an up conservation area appraisal and management plan and the judges wondered whether more communities could get involved and help support local authorities. Civic Voice will be setting up a series of conservation area study trips to learn about the challenges to protect them. If you want to work with us on a joint study visit to a conservation area that you know, get in touch. Do you have experience of undertaking a conservation area appraisal? Would you like to share them with us? Get in touch by contacting us here and we can start the dialogue.

By passing on the experiences civic societies already have in this area, we can start moving forward inch by inch to say “My Conservation Area Matters”.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * *

What is the story behind the Civic Voice Design Awards Overall Winner 2016?

Photograph: Delegates at the Alder Hey Design Awards study tour

Delegates at the Alder Hey Design Awards study tour

Photograph: Man describing what is displayed on screen behind him Photograph: People on guided tour round hospital

Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool is a hospital built entirely in a park and is something new in the treatment and care of children. It’s not just a first for the UK, there’s nothing like it anywhere in Europe. Alder Hey is now advising others (including hospitals in China and Abu Dhabi) on the approach they took in designing a hospital that focused on improving the user experience to create a home-from-home for children who need care.

Alder Hey asked a simple question, “How can we make life easier and better for our patients”. It was this fresh thinking and a change of mindset in how we look at challenges that led David Houghton and his team at Alder Hey to completely redefine what a hospital is.

Alder Hey embraced user-led design in its development by listening carefully to staff, children and thousands of families who took part in one of the NHS's biggest-ever public consultations. Many suggestions, such as better access to fresh air and nature, influenced the plans, and it was a drawing by a 15-year-old that impressed the architects and inspired their final design.

The Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust invited the Prince's Foundation for Building Community to lead the public consultation for the redevelopment of the hospital, which was to be located on the neighbouring Springfield Park. The Friends of Springfield Park and the wider community actively engaged in the Enquiry by Design process, to ensure that the community's voice was heard.

The project successfully combines art, architecture and landscape design to create a new hospital which is warm, happy, calming and educational, marking a step change in the quality of public hospital design.

Through meaningful consultation, the city of Liverpool now has a hospital of which it is immensely proud.

Visits to Alder Hey

If you would like an organised visit to Alder Hey for your civic society, please let Civic Voice know and we can help make this happen. It is well worth a visit for all civic societies as part of your annual calendar of events.

One other thought.

"Curves, green, light, natural, open, wood…"

Just some of the words used to describe Alder Hey by delegates at the workshop and by the Civic Voice Design Award judges. They were also words used to describe Gloucester Services, Civic Voice Design Overall Winner in 2015.

Perhaps there is something there for us all to think about in terms of the qualities that help to create high quality development and calm and inviting spaces?

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Nearly half of all local planning authorities in England have yet to publish a draft Local Plan, new research has revealed.

Photograph from the air: New housing estate being built

A local plan is the plan for the future development of the local area, drawn up by the local planning authority in consultation with the community. In law this is described as the development plan documents adopted under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. Current core strategies or other planning policies, which under the regulations would be considered to be development plan documents, form part of the Local Plan. The term includes old policies which have been saved under the 2004 Act.

Planned and Deliver, Local Plan-making under the NPPF: A five-year progress report, published by planning and development consultancy Lichfields, found only 36% of local planning authorities have adopted a Local Plan under the National Planning Policy Framework. The report authors warn this could expose two-thirds of councils to government interventions to encourage housing delivery and plan-making.

Matthew Spry, senior director of Lichfields, said: ‘To encourage local authorities to proactively manage the delivery of new homes, Government is consulting on introduction of new housing delivery tests. Our research has identified some 222 local authority areas (56%) may fail these tests and face the consequences of needing an action plan or application of a 20% buffer on their five year land supply.’

‘The biggest gaps in Plan coverage were in areas with the most difficult planning issues the report found, such as those covered in Green Belt or subject to national designations that can restrict development.’

Read the report here.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Sarah James, explains the benefit of a Local Heritage List

Photograph: Locally listed buildings in Dudley. Photo credit: Amblecote History Society

Locally listed buildings in Dudley. Photo credit: Amblecote History Society

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. This week, Sarah James, Civic Voice Senior Development Officer, (who produced a dissertation at Oxford Brookes University on Local Heritage Listing) explains 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.

Sign up to the Civic Voice campaign here.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

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.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

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.

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, Chris Winter presents Blandford Civic Society with Civic Day Award

Picture: Chris Winter presenting Blandford & District Civic Society with a Civic Day Award for 2016

Chris Winter presenting Blandford & District Civic Society with a Civic Day Award for 2016

Blandford & District Civic Society held its annual St George's Day lunch in the Blandford Royal British Legion on Sunday, when their guest speaker was Chris Winter, chairman of Wells Civic Society and a trustee for Civic Voice.

Chris 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. She also outlined its work on surveying the condition of war memorials as part of the commemoration of the First World War.

She presented to Terence Dear, chairman of Blandford & District Civic Society, an award for its participation in National Civic Day in 2016, when a number of local organisations sharing the objective of promoting civic pride were invited to join the Civic Society in the town's Corn Exchange in an exhibition of work.

She said it highlighted the importance of partnership working to achieve great results. Mr Dear said Blandford & District Civic Society would this year be celebrating National Civic Day on Saturday 17th June with an exhibition in the Woodhouse Gardens Pavilion, focusing on the local individuals featured through the society's Blue Plaques scheme. The Civic Society also plan to unveil its 20th in The Tabernacle, the square at the entrance to the Woodhouse Gardens, and will explain the reasons for it being so named.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Colchester Civic Society’s Facebook campaign

Image: Facebook logo

Facebook logo

A number of civic societies including Pontefract, Oxford, Marple and Hale have all been engaging in an online “twitter” conversation over the past week.

Over 100 civic societies are now active on twitter talking and sharing what is going on in their local world. We know that many of you are not on twitter or facebook and fearful of what it may become. With this in mind, we asked Colchester Civic Society to tell us how they have been using facebook to raise their profile and help deliver their objectives.

Colchester Civic Society realised exactly just how effective their presence on Facebook could be when they faced a traffic conundrum in the town centre.

A very short 'buses only' lane in the centre of Colchester was causing chaos. Unable to turn right out of the high street to access all points south and west, drivers were doing a U turn a few yards further on crossing a stream of traffic coming the other way as well as buses at a major bus stop. They also interfered with pedestrians and cyclists on one of the main shared use routes into the town. The manoeuvres, although legal, were incredibly dangerous.

A representative from Colchester Civic Society said "Some vehicles would enter the shared use pavement while pedestrians were crossing, either running over the pavement in front of them or coming up behind and slowing, until the pedestrian was no longer in the way of their turn. I had heard reports of this from people who, having realised there was a vehicle running along the pavement towards them, would stop in surprise and fear and would then receive abuse from the driver."

After scrutinising the area of concern for a while, Colchester Civic Society decided to film some of the incidents they had seen and post it onto their Facebook page to help raise awareness.

To the society’s surprise, within 24 hours the post had received over 20,000 views and the society was inundated with comments. Local press, The Gazette, East Anglian Times and local radio station Radio Essex then contacted the civic society having picked it up from their Facebook page. By this time the number of views had hit 50,000.

Colchester Civic Society then did an interview live on Radio Essex and provided the local press with copies of a letter sent to all Borough and relevant County Councillors raising concerns on the issue.

Colchester Civic Society's Facebook page has had over 345 page likes and 3,900 likes for the video post. This post was shared or commented on by 4,500. And the total number of views is now over 61,000.

This shows how effective social media can be to spearhead campaigns for your civic society and raise awareness of the great work your civic society is doing.

So to do social media or not to do social media….. how can you really do without it?

If you need help setting up your social media channels do get in touch with us at Civic Voice for more information.

Civic Voice logo

Click on logo to return to Contents list

* * * * * * * * * *

Scarborough Civic Society hold photographic competition as part of Big Conservation Conversation

Scarborough heading

Throughout the country civic societies are this year celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the start of Conservation Areas and Scarborough is no exception. The Society has decided in conjunction with Scarborough News to hold a photographic competition which is open to all.

Conservation Areas are zones which help to give the town its unique character and attractiveness. This uniqueness takes various forms, such as a group of significant buildings or an area which is famous (or even notorious!) for a particular reason, such as a fisherman’s quarter or the site of some historical event.

Large swathes of Scarborough are within its Conservation Areas, but photographs of anything in the town are valid for this competition. It is not a competition for the most perfect photograph and entries are just as valid whether taken on expensive professional equipment or the most inexpensive phone camera.

Submissions can be either in print or digital and £100 prizes are to be had! In addition, the winning entries will be publicised on the Civic Society’s website and in the Scarborough News. And the entries will feature in an exhibition to be held at The Central Library on Vernon Road between 5th of June and 10th of June. Entrants do not have to be Civic Society members and the judges will include Ed Asquith the Scarborough News Editor and Andrew Clay, Director of Woodend Creative.

What the judges will be looking for is the entrant’s view of what makes a particular area or scene attractive, enjoyable or distinct and what makes him or her proud to live in Scarborough so the description of the photograph is important.

The competition closes at midnight on 27th of May 2017 so plenty of time to capture that special shot.

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.