Civic Update

3 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.

During the Civic Voice convention, we heard that planning enforcement (or lack of) is a major issue in local authorities across the country. So we asked you to tell us about your local examples and this week you have been doing so loud and clear! Fill in the survey here.

This issue is not just being raised by civic societies, we are also hearing of examples from conservation officers within local government that a lack of sufficient capacity is threatening effective enforcement, particularly within Conservation Areas. This is important because in their 50th anniversary year, more Conservation Areas have been added (47) to the national Heritage at Risk Register than removed (22). The Heritage at Risk Register is an annual health-check of the country’s most special and vulnerable historic places. This year's register shows that common problems facing Conservation Areas are unsympathetic doors, windows and new extensions, poorly maintained streets and neglected green space. Historic England research indicates that houses in conservation areas sell for a premium of 9% on average, so we think the value of a conservation officer is clear. All of the reasons that put Conservation Areas at risk could easily be removed if adequate resources were in place to ensure these changes didn't occur in the first place.

To quote one Conservation Officer who contacted Civic Voice this week: "Lack of sufficient enforcement capacity is preventing breaches of planning control in Conservation Areas from being tackled decisively."

Please do respond to our survey here. The results will be shared at a meeting of the APPG for Civic Societies that Civic Voice members will be invited to.


In their 50th anniversary year, more Conservation Areas added to the Heritage at Risk than other heritage assets.

Over the past year, a total of 387 entries have been rescued and removed from the Heritage at Risk Register – at least one site per day across the country and 328 were added making the total number on the Register 5,290.

Historic England has also met its target to reduce the number of sites on the 2015 Register by 15% (746 sites) in 2017, a year ahead of schedule.

The Heritage at Risk Register 2017 reveals that in England, 1257 Grade I and II* buildings, 2480 scheduled monuments, 937 places of worship, 96 registered parks and gardens, 4 battlefields, 4 protected wrecks and 512 conservation areas are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change. There are 5,290 assets on the Heritage at Risk Register, 97 fewer than in 2016.

Of particular concern 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. A recent YouGov poll commissioned by Historic England found strong public support for conservation areas, but only a small majority of those surveyed who live in a conservation area (56%) were aware that they actually live in one. Historic England would like to see local authorities raising awareness of Conservation Areas, especially among homeowners and commercial property owners. Common problems facing Conservation Areas are unsympathetic doors, windows and new extensions, poorly maintained streets and neglected green space. Historic England continues to work with councils and other partners to address these issues.

Laura Sandys, Civic Voice Vice-president said: "I find the news about these conservation areas really incredibly sad as we celebrate the Big Conservation Conversation and 50 years of the Civic Amenities Act 1967. I look forward to working with Civic Voice and civic societies across England to continue to make the case for conservation areas."

Search the Heritage at Risk Register for 2017 here.

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Civic Voice chairwoman says "We need YOU to shape the future of conservation areas!"

Photograph: Joan Humble and Marion Coupe in Lyham town centre

Joan Humble (Chairwoman, Civic Voice) and Marion Coupe (Chairwoman, Lytham St Annes Civic Society) considering the challenges of Lytham town centre conservation area.

This week, Joan Humble and other Civic Voice trustees made a visit to the seaside town of Lytham St Annes in Lancashire to learn about the amazing work of Lytham St Annes Civic Society and to find out how they have been getting on since our last visit in 2014. In 2014, Lytham St Annes Civic Society was selected as part of a national pilot to look at using Placecheck in a conservation area. Placecheck is a simple and quick way of finding out what a place and its people can tell us and starting the process of making change happen. It is a method of taking the first steps in deciding how to improve an area. In 2014, people in the Ansdell area of the town carried out a Placecheck to find out how to protect the quality of their delighted residential streets. Read more here.

Following on from the Civic Voice convention, we made a visit to see how things have been progressing since the Placecheck and to hear more about issues in the conservation area.

The survey can be filled in here. Please share this with your own local contacts. We will be sharing the results of this survey at a future APPG for Civic Societies meeting in Parliament.

Joan Humble, Chairwoman of Civic Voice said: "We know that local authorities are stretched so working with the APPG for Civic Societies, we will be writing to the Secretary of State for DCMS highlighting the concerns from our members. It was great to hear how civic societies say that they are meeting MPs and Councillors to press the case for increased investment in conservation areas".

Marion Coupe, Chairwoman of Lytham St Annes Civic Society said "We have problems with restaurant developments in central Lytham. There are verandahs along the pavements elsewhere in the town, but the sort that pedestrians walk through to keep dry. The restaurants here are putting up what they call verandahs but in fact are conservatories to extend their space onto the square. Then follows a plinth to level up with the doorway, a high glass screen, roof and heaters. These are now on two lIsted buildings. Planning permissions are not seen to be important. The facades of these attractive buildings cannot be seen. It is good to see Lytham thriving but it seems to be at the cost of the characterful and historic built environment which attracted the investment in the first place".

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60% of adults have visited a city or town with historic character

Chart showing visitor proportions to towns with historic character

In further evidence that the need for conservation officers in local government is as great as ever, new research published by the Government states that nearly 60% of the adult population visited a city or town with historic character during 2016/2017. With 2.2% of the country being covered by a conservation area (the size of Luxembourg) we have huge swathes of the historic environment that we need to enhance.

With visits to a city or town, historic parks and gardens or a historic building being the three most visited different types of heritage sites, it shows that heritage provides a vital boost to local economies through tourism. As a movement, we are not surprised that keeping our towns distinctive and attractive is a money spinner. It is something we have been saying since 1846 when the first civic society was created! Yet, with the cuts to local government conservation and planning officers, we are putting this at risk.

Sarah James, Membership Development Officer said: “Investing in heritage makes good economic sense. The report shows the full value of heritage as an attraction for people. Heritage is the reason many of us visit places such as Coventry and Liverpool, to experience the story of these places. Yet many towns and cities across the country are putting this tourism at risk by not investing in resources to effectively manage and enhance their historic environment."

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The Deal Society deliver workshop explaining how they are leading the way in community led conservation appraisals

Photograph: David White delivering a workshop

David White (The Deal Society) delivering a workshop at the
Civic Voice Convention 2017.

As part of the Civic Voice convention, over 20 workshops were held to give communities the chance to consider how they could play a greater role in local heritage management. A particular feature of the weekend was considering how civic societies can support local authorities through conservation area appraisals. A Conservation Area Appraisal is an assessment of the current condition of the built environment and character of the landscape within a designated Conservation Area. The resulting report leads to a Supplementary Planning Document within the Local Planning Authority. That document will be used in considering development and planning matters and will inform decisions about managing the environment of the area.

One of the workshops to consider this subject was delivered by David White, Chair of The Deal Society. David explained that The Deal Society were asked by Dover District Council to carry out a series of conservation area character appraisals, which is a statutory responsibility which requires local authorities to keep conservation areas under review. David used the workshop to explain how it worked:

“We first carry out detailed surveys based on the original model developed by the City of Oxford. The surveys are to evaluate the historic and current significance of the conservation area and are based on the Buildings, Spaces, Views and Landscapes, Roads and Pavements and Ambiance of the Conservation area. The surveys detail the current condition of the conservation area. It is understood as a partnership between the district Planning Authority and the Civic Society and both logos appear on the final Supplementary Planning Document.”

For its first appraisal the Deal Society chose the Nelson Street Conservation area including St. Andrew’s Church and grounds. During 2015, a small group of volunteers looked at this area. Every resident in the area received a short questionnaire to help in the research. The aim of the Appraisal is to understand the significance of the area as a whole, to assess its current condition and character and to identify any vulnerabilities and any opportunities for enhancement. The draft report which resulted from this work, was published by Dover District Council for public consultation in October 2016. The adopted Appraisal is a material consideration in assessing all planning applications, listed building and conservation area consents within the area.

So what does this report include?

•A report is drawn up including a Statement of Significance of the Conservation area and any recommendations that should happen e.g. imposition of Article 4(2) Direction, changes of boundaries, creation of local lists of heritage assets. •The report is then submitted to the district council heritage team.
•Following any revisions the district council cabinet authorises a period of public consultation.
•The document is then further authorised and becomes a Supplementary Planning Document.

You can learn more about The Deal Society toolkit

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Sessay, Yorkshire about to become the newest conservation area!

A swell of local passion looks set to protect the character of a North Yorkshire village for generations to come. In an initiative led by the residents of Sessay, and others who are proud of the distinctiveness and history of this architecturally-rich spot near Thirsk, the village’s southern part is expected to be formally designated as a Conservation Area by Hambleton District Council in December.

Once confirmed, it will become the Hambleton region’s 54th such designation and will neatly coincide with the 50th anniversary of England’s first ever Conservation Area established, in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

Read more here.

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Civic Voice Executive Director to speak in Bedford, Birkenhead and Buckingham... places beginning with other letters too!

Ian Harvey

Conservation Areas Wirral is a forum of all Wirral’s 26 Conservation Areas. Established in 2014 it is a voluntary-run organisation with members drawn from all of Wirral’s active Conservation Areas. It works with Wirral residents, Wirral Council and Historic England to promote and protect the distinct character of Wirral’s Conservation Areas and to ensure they can be accessed and enjoyed by all, both now and in the future.

Ian Harvey, Executive Director, Civic Voice, will be attending the 50th anniversary of Hamilton Square. Ian explained that designating a conservation area should not be seen as an end in itself: we live in a changing world and for the historic environment to survive and continue to be cherished it needs to be positively managed.

Ian will be explaining that we want communities across the country to come together and say "My Conservation Area Matters" for National Civic day in June 2018 as we created a national focus on celebrating the impact conservation areas have made to England.

Join the Big Conservation Conversation here.

He will be calling for communities at all talks to make the case for conservation areas and to share examples with him and how funding cuts to local government are weakening protection of conservation areas.

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Ilkley Civic Society wins a Civic Day Award

Photograph: Mayor of Wakefield and Helen Kidman

The Civic Voice Award was received by Helen Kidman on behalf of the society from Cllr Kevin Barker, the Mayor of Wakefield, at the recent Civic Voice Convention in Wakefield.

Ilkley Civic Society has won a Civic Day award for an outstanding contribution to Civic Day on June 17, 2017.

The society staged an exhibition at Christchurch, Ilkley on the Big Conservation Conversation, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civic Amenities Act 1967 which created conservation areas.

The exhibition celebrated Ilkley’s three conservation areas and the large number of listed buildings in the town. The two-day exhibition also featured conservation work of a number of voluntary organisations and of Overton Architects practice. A heritage walk was conducted to observe key features of the main conservation area. A smaller exhibition continued at the library through the summer.

Read more here.

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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.