Civic Update

29 March 2018

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.

Photograph: Church

Responding to member feedback, we are changing how regularly we send civic update out to Civic Voice members. You are receiving this update because you are a Civic Voice member and the information about events and meetings we are holding are to help us work together to raise the voice of the civic movement.

Working together we can influence the Government and future consultations but to do that we need your help starting with. make sure you remember to renew your membership for 2018! You can join Civic Voice here.


“If we are not careful, we will build the wrong homes in the wrong places" says All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies debate

Photograph: Gryff Rhys Jones at the meeting

The draft National Planning Policy Framework was published by the Prime Minister on 6th March with the consultation running to 10th May. To put forward our views with this consultation, we will be:

The first set of these events was on 13th March when Civic Voice and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies held a debate on to ask the question, “Will the NPPF review lead to the homes, the nation needs, being built? The panel included speakers from the Royal Town Planning Institute and Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Speaking at the meeting, Civic Voice President, Griff Rhys Jones said: “Whilst the Government wants to see `The right homes in the right places` the draft National Planning Policy Framework is so lacking in teeth to ensure that the policies will be delivered, and combined with under-resourced local councils, that we are very likely to end up with the wrong homes in the wrong places.”

Craig Mackinlay MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies said: “Does anyone genuinely believe that if you build enough houses, house prices will come down? Without knocking developers, who are part of the solution, I have to query whether they are doing all they can to help build the houses? I say to them, to get more affordable housing, we must build real affordable housing in sustainable locations where people want to live in towns and cities. If not, we have to look at other ways of building the homes we need. It is easy to think of headline figures, but we are talking about real people’s lives being impacted by the housing crisis.”

The debate highlighted a series of other issues that you can read here on the Civic Voice website.

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Chair of APPG for Civic Societies to arrange a Private Roundtable with the Housing and Planning Minister and Civic Voice members

Photograph: Gryff Rhys Jones speaking at meeting

On behalf of Civic Voice, Craig Mackinlay MP, Chair of the APPG for Civic Societies contacted the Housing and Planning Minister, Dominic Raab MP after the meeting, to share thoughts from the discussion.

The letter stated that, 'The 300 or so Civic Societies who are members of Civic Voice play significant roles in the development of place in locations ranging from the tiniest villages to the greatest cities. They have long histories of contributions to the development of their built environments and are particularly active in working alongside their local councils in a wide range of planning matters. Indeed, after local councils, civic societies are the most numerous participants in the planning system.

The letter went on to say that, 'In Civic Voice’s view, in general, the feedback we are receiving from our members on the draft NPPF is that the changes are good and areas in which there has been doubt have been clarified and most of the previous policies are retained.' However, he explained that we do feel that design, green belt policies, heritage and community participation can all be strengthened and will focus our response on these areas.

We are in discussion with the Housing and Planning Minister's office about a Private Roundtable discussion. Register your interest here if you would like to be added to the list of interested individuals. Please note, individuals will only be allowed to attend if their civic society is a fully paid up member of Civic Voice.

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New powerful national alliance calls for urban design to be taken seriously in the draft National Planning Policy Framework

Photograph: Max Farrell

We are delighted that Griff Rhys Jones (Civic Voice President) and Max Farrell (Chair, Civic Voice Design Awards) will both be appearing at an event in London on 11th April.

The Academy of Urbanism, Civic Voice, Place Alliance and Urban Design Group will host a meeting to call on the Government “to get serious on design” in the draft National Planning Policy Framework.

The revised design paragraphs of the draft NPPF feature some welcome deletions and a few welcome additions. But despite the many new words, the content is not dramatically different and the fine words, whilst welcome, will not require or inspire the culture change on design that is so desperately needed across England. On this front the Government needs to show still greater leadership. We hope that the debate will assist in developing our response to the consultation.

The meeting will take place in The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, London on April 11th 2018. Registration is required to attend. You can register your place here

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Laura Sandys, Civic Voice Vice-President to address parliamentary event discussing "Future of Conservation Areas"

Photograph: Laura Sandys

Civic Voice's Vice-President, the Chair of IHBC and the Head of Planning at Historic England are just some of the names confirmed to appear at the next All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies meeting on May 8th. The event has already been promoted to Civic Voice members who get priority notification of all our events. Remember, without Civic Voice, the APPG for Civic Societies would not be able to function as Ian Harvey, Civic Voice Executive Director, is the Secretary for the group.

The announcement of this event ties in with the launch of a new consultation by Historic England on guidance for conservation areas. We are asking all civic societies to respond to this consultation. We believe that communities can play a much greater role in managing their local conservation area. Groups such as the Deal Society and Conservation Areas Wirral are already leading the way. The guidance can be accessed here.

Is your MP a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies? We were pleased that the newest member, Matt Rodda MP attended our last meeting on the draft National Planning Policy Framework. We would like even more to attend our debate on The Future of Conservation Areas on 8th May.

We believe that the figure of 512 conservation areas designated to be 'at risk' to be somewhat higher in reality. This is what led us to start piloting our Civic Voice Conservation Area Audit. Although not developed to determine if a CA is at risk, by using a standard approach, and with some training, we believe we can develop an alternative assessment of the issues and identify real examples that are putting areas at risk. You can read here why Sutton Coldfield Civic Society decided to participate in the pilot here. Civic societies who sign up to the pilot will be sent an example audit and action plan, prepared by Bewdley Civic Society., as an example of what you can do.

At the meeting, we will be launching a new report on the Future of Conservation Areas. This report has been only possible due to the financial donations from civic societies across England. Each of these groups will be recognised in the final report. If you haven't yet donated and would like to support the publication of this report, there's still time! You can donate here. We will also be launching a new website which will be a one stop for anyone who wants to protect their conservation area. Sign up here to the All Party Parliamentary Group event today.

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Civic Voice supports former Chief Executive of CPRE in call for “if Government is serious about building homes the country needs, keep a minister in post!

Photograph: Sarah James with Shaun Spiers

Civic Voice's Sarah James was delighted to attend Campaign to Protect Rural England's parliamentary event last week which explored How to Build Houses & Save the Countryside. At the reception, Sarah heard from the Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan MP, Campaign to Protect Rural England's former Chief Executive Shaun Spiers, current Chief Executive Crispin Truman OBE and Head of Planning Matt Thompson, who outlined Campaign to Protect Rural England's initial views on the draft National Planning Policy Framework. Opening the series of speeches, Shaun made the point, "If Government is serious about building homes the country needs, keep a minister in post!" which Civic Voice strongly supports. It was interesting to meet their new Chief Executive, hear his vision for the future of CPRE and discuss common ground between our organisations in empowering local communities to lead and shape development locally.

Sarah made the case about the importance of people having a voice in the planning system and shared Civic Voice's emerging thoughts on the draft National Planning Policy Framework.

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Cockermouth Civic Trust success in Local Heritage List adopted

The first meeting of the Allerdale Local Heritage List Panel met on March 9th to consider nominations put forward by Cockermouth and District. The panel was chaired by the Deputy Leader of Allerdale Borough Council, Mark Fryer, & Helen Brownlie, Conservation Officer, Allan Kennon for Cockermouth Town Council and Duncan Keeler for Cockermouth Civic Trust attended. 15 of the Trust's nominations were accepted, subject only to formal ratification within Allerdale BC. A single nomination was rejected – the Market Place historical mosaics on the basis that these are the sole responsibility of Cumbria CC and Allerdale BC has no These are the first entries onto the Allerdale BC Local Heritage List.

Back in 2013, Cockermouth Civic Trust was invited by Allerdale Borough Council to take the lead in piloting a process for the District. Accordingly, 3 members of our committee attended a course on local listing provided by English Heritage, (now Historic England). Subsequently, Duncan Keeler developed the local process in consultation with Helen Brownlie and Cockermouth Civic Trust, have followed this process using these initial nominations. There was a significant delay when the Council decided not to consider nominations within Conservation Areas, however this has now been fully resolved. Now that the process is in place, community groups elsewhere in Allerdale can potentially use it.

The Civic Trust is now asking if anyone else within Cockermouth feels that an additional asset should be considered for nomination within Cockermouth and District, i.e. including our surrounding villages.

Cockermouth is blessed with Grade I Listed Buildings (The Castle & Wordsworth House), and a significant number of Grade II Listed Buildings and structures, (226), all of which are considered to be of national importance and attract strict planning protection.

So why do we need Local Listing as well? Local heritage listing is a means for the community and the local authority to jointly identify assets that are valued as distinctive elements of the local historic environment. It assists the local authority in knowing the location of such assets and what it is about them that is significant when developing strategic local plans and considering specific planning applications. There are no additional planning restrictions however, such as those required for Grade I and II listed structures.

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Photograph: Group of conservationists

Regional War Memorials workshops

Photograph: Group holding 'save our memorials' banner

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Photograph: Trustees

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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 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.