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Civic Update

5 May 2017

This week Civic Voice responded to the the Government's Housing White paper stating that the belief that market mechanisms can "solve" the housing crisis should be robustly challenged. We would like to thank the 99 groups who participated in our consultation and helped shape our final response. Read our full response HERE.

Headlines include:

•Civic Voice believes that every area should have an up-to-date Local Plan. A quality plan, with quality of place at its heart, shaped by local communities.

•The white paper is inconsistent in relying on the market while seeking to shape it. Similarly it blows hot and cold on local versus central control.

•There is a real need for local communities to feel confident that their wishes are given full weight if they have undertaken the task of producing a Neighbourhood Plan.

•Developers with major resources are still seen to be able to challenge and override the decisions of local council and support for smaller developers and for self build is essential to break the stranglehold of the bigger developers.

•With the housing needed, the NPPF needs to be able to look and empty properties - especially over commercial premises and support the improvement of town and city centres rather than the pressure all being on green field sites.

•We would be concerned if proposals put forward in the white paper led to ‘nibbling away’ and erosion of established Green Belt and inevitable resultant pressure to amend Green Belt boundaries.

•Other government policies, such as those on permitted development should be revisited since they would be inconsistent with some of the stated objectives in the white paper.

We have all that and a lot more in this week's Civic Update.


Civic Voice Design Award judges say earlier participation is key to solving housing crisis

Photograph: Civic Voice Design Awards judges

Civic Voice Design Awards judges

In February, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Civic Societies (more information here)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.

This week Civic Voice, the authoritative voice for the civic movement, responded to the national consultation on the White Paper and presented the views of the 99 groups that responded to our call for evidence. We consulted upon selected elements of White Paper and responded to those proposals that we felt were most relevant to the movement and where we had real examples from civic groups. Our final response is available HERE. As with all our consultations, we respond based on what Civic Voice members say to us. If you want to shape our thoughts, ask your civic society to join Civic Voice.

Housing has been a big issue for the Civic Voice Design Award judges and in summarising the shortlist for the Civic Voice Design Award 2017, the judges commented that a number of lessons are starting to come through from Awards, that can be applied to almost any other project, no matter how big or small. In reference to housing, they said:

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.

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?

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Another Farrell Review-inspired 'urban room' set to open with support of the Coventry Society

Photograph: Architect's model

Every town and city should have a physical space where people can go to understand, debate and get involved in the past, present and future of where they live, work and play. The purpose of these Urban Rooms is to foster meaningful connections between people and place, using creative methods of engagement to encourage active participation in the future of our buildings, streets and neighbourhoods. (Urban Rooms Network)

We were pleased this week to hear from the Coventry Society who contacted us to tell us that they are in the process of setting up an urban room within the city. Civic Voice has been campaigning for real community participation in the planning and design process through early, inclusive, collaborative methods for some time now through our Collaborative Planning publication, and we are supportive of practical tools such as urban rooms to help communities to engage with their local built environment. It got us thinking! How many of are you aware of the Urban Room Network?

This is a great organisation for civic societies to be inspired by!

The Coventry Society have often spoken of the need to showcase the urban environment, its parks, streetscapes, architecture, historic sites, its transport and other areas that affect our daily lives. They are now delighted to report that Ian Harrabin, the businessman behind Fargo regeneration and many other heritage schemes, has made available the former Coventry Evening Telegraph building, as a pop-up venue for use as a temporary exhibition space.

A number of stakeholders across the city, including the Coventry Society have been working towards an exhibition that will kick-start the project to see a Coventry get an urban room. It will feature displays on the quality of Coventry's city centre post-war architecture and planning; work carried out by students at the School of Art and Design along with art provided by ex-Warwick University graduate Luke Bryant now working for London architects; and a Coventry Evening Telegraph images project that will provide a fascinating look back through projected pictures, to the days when the newspaper was produced at the Corporation Street offices.

Learn more about Urban Rooms here.

We are aware that York, Doncaster and Hereford Civic Trusts are also currently exploring Urban Rooms at the moment and are engaged in the Urban Rooms Network, but is any other civic society? We would be keen to know!

We would be interested to know if other civic societies would be interested in this area as we are sure we could get the Farrell Review author, Max Farrell along to a workshop to talk more about it! Max is the Chair of the Civic Voice Design Awards.

Urban Rooms were a recommendation made by the Farrell Review - for every village, town and city to have an urban room where people could go to understand the past, present and future of their place. You can visit Farrell Review here to find out more.

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So what housing has been shortlisted for the Civic Voice Design Awards?

Photograph: Symonds Close, Winchester shortlisted for Civic Voice Design Award

Symonds Close, Winchester shortlisted for Civic Voice Design Award

Symonds Close, Wincheser is shortlisted for a Civic Voice Design Award for its demonstration of high quality design in a council housing scheme.

Winchester City Council commissioned T2 Architects to design a scheme for the site, including family homes and smaller homes suitable for downsizers. A planning application was made in June 2014 for 12 new council homes and permission granted August 2014. The project started on site in April 2015 and completed on 22 June 2016.

The design team and Council officers undertook a series of consultation events with the local community. A focus group with potential downsizers helped shape the design and layout of the smaller homes. A community drop-in event at the initial design stage to which the wider community were invited, informed the overall design of the scheme and the individual dwellings. This was followed up with a leaflet drop distributed to a wide area explaining how comments had been incorporated and inviting residents to look at the plans online or at a display in the local community centre.

The community also contributed to decisions regarding improvements to other open spaces in the area to mitigate for the loss of the open space for the new housing. The team ran a workshop with pupils from the local secondary school to gain their views on the type of improvements teenagers would like. This was followed up with two further events with the wider community to finalise the proposals for improvements. Improvements were subsequently made by the Council to two open spaces in the area. An ‘outside gym’ and new benches were installed at Dean Park, whilst a trim trail was built around the edge of St Matthews Field.

The dwellings are designed to high quality standards to reflect the Council’s demanding requirements. All the homes are designed to meet lifetime homes criteria which allow them to be easily adapted to enable a resident to remain in their home as their mobility needs change. The development has been very successfully designed by T2 Architects to make excellent use of space. The site was formerly a garage site and an underused area of open space, which the local community reported felt closed in and uninviting. The garages were in poor condition with some vacancies. The design of the homes and materials used, together with the creation of a communal green with seating and a ‘play street’ have created an inviting place with a sense of community.

The crisp, modern design and the use of a buff brick, slate roof and small blocks of colour on the houses, together with the paved play street and communal green help to create a place which is light and airy.

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Civic volunteers gather in Yorkshire to say "My Conservation Area Matters"

Photograph: YHACS sign

Yorkshire civic volunteers gathered last weekend in Barnsley to hold the latest meeting in the Big Conservation Conversation.

There was an opportunity to explore something of Barnsley’s architecture and history when Dr John Tanner, from Barnsley Council’s Arts and Heritage Service, led a guided walk around one of the town’s conservation areas. Barnsley Civic Trust, a small but very active organisation that was reformed in 2007 introduced the talks by explaining some of their work which includes an annual shop award; blue plaques being erected; hosting visits by other civic societies, and being represented on the town’s independent design panel.

Craig Broadwith, Historic Places Adviser, Historic England explained that 1 in 16 conservation areas is at risk. These are reviewed annually to establish their condition, vulnerability and trajectory. Local Authorities have the power to take action but often lack the resources to do so. This may be through Townscape Heritage Schemes, Article 4 Directions, refusing damaging planning applications and ensuring that new-build is properly integrated into the streetscape in conservation areas. Craig saw challenges from a number of directions – housing v heritage, growth v conservation areas and market failure v conservation areas, but he also saw solutions. For example, encouraging residential use for upper floors of old buildings (as at Little Germany in Bradford) and the use of local listed building consent orders.

Kevin Trickett outlined how civic societies can help conservation officers with local knowledge, continuity, acting honest brokers, and so on, even, if resources allowed, helping with conservation area appraisals.

Are you holding a Big Conservation Conversation? Let us know and we can send a speaker. Get in touch here. Remember that the next Yorkshire event will be in Hornsea on Saturday, 29th July. More information from Kevin Trickett here.

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Sevenoaks Society explain how they championed 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.

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Ian Harvey delivers "Big Conservation Conversation" talk to Conservation Areas Wirral

Photograph: Ian Harvey, Executive Director explaining the challenges facing conservation areas across England

Ian Harvey, Executive Director explaining the challenges facing conservation areas across England

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, recently attended the AGM to speak to conservation societies, resident's associations and civic societies focused on the 26 conservation areas. 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 explained that we want communities across the country to come together and say "My Conservation Area Matters" for National Civic day on June 17th and shared examples from groups including the Deal Society, Dronfield Civic Society and Malvern Civic Society who are all celebrating their local conservation areas.

Join the Big Conservation Conversation here.

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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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David Evans visits Bourne Civic Society

Picture: David Evans, Civic Voice Trustee

David Evans, Civic Voice Trustee

The Bourne Civic Society, founded in 1977 to fight for conservation and good planning in Bourne runs many other activities including lectures, tours & visits. They take a great interest in their town past, present & future. They recently invited David Evans Civic Voice Trustee to give a talk on the work of the wider civic movement.

As part of his visit to Bourne, David learnt that Bourne are a totally independent and non-political body who actively monitor planning and development in Bourne. They have given evidence at a number of Public Inquiries and continue to take a firm line on many important planning matters. David was delighted to learn that the Society manages a heritage centre and museum at Baldock's Mill that features three major displays: the Raymond May's exhibition, the Charles Worth Gallery and a gallery of Bourne's history and heritage. The Mill has a shop selling a range of gifts and publications, pamphlets and maps relating to Bourne and the specialist displays.

During his talk, David 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. He also outlined its work on surveying the condition of war memorials as part of the commemoration of the First World War. He explained the importance of societies coming together under one voice with Civic Voice.

He highlighted the importance of partnership working to achieve great results and praised the work of the Society in managing Baldocks Mill, the only remaining mill in the town at over 200 years old. The Doomsday Book gave Bourne three mills and there has been a mill on this site since 1086.

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Over 160 guests celebrate individual and group achievement in Blackpool Civic Trust awards event

Photograph: Joan Humble addressing the guests Photograph: Guests sitting down to meal

On Friday 28th April 2017, Blackpool Civic Trust held its Annual Awards and Dinner in the Washington Suite of the Imperial Hotel. In front of over 160 guests, including the Mayor and Mayoress of Blackpool, Blackpool Civic Trust gave out awards to schools, community groups and local businesses who had contributed to supporting Blackpool in 2016.

Chair of Blackpool Civic Trust and Chair of Civic Voice, Joan Humble, commented:

“The evening was a very enjoyable way to celebrate individual and group achievement in Blackpool. I am pleased that the Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Kath Rowson and Miss Joan Goldin could join us, together with both Blackpool MPs, Gordon Marsden and Paul Maynard. The 2016 Awards especially highlight the good work of community groups and also businesses in Blackpool which are supporting our local economy. I am pleased that this year’s ceremony took place at the Imperial Hotel which is itself celebrating its 150th anniversary. We all enjoyed a very successful event.”

The winners in each category were:-

• Junior School Environmental Shield: Hawes Side Academy
• Senior School Environmental Shield: Highfurlong School
• Blackpool Council Conservation Award: Jubb and Jubb Ltd for their detailed survey work on the Winter Gardens.
• Community Award: The Friends of the Illuminations
• Best Open Spaces: 1 Jubilee Gardens (Gynn)
• Best Open Spaces: 2 Aspire Academy, Memorial Garden
• Best Refurbishment: The Grand Theatre
• Transforming Blackpool: Harry Ramsden at Blackpool Tower
• Special Award: 1 Glasdon’s Works Canteen
• Special Award: 2 Carers Centre

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Birmingham Civic Society Award for renovation of run-down Jewellery Quarter pub

George and Dragon pub

Photo credit: Birmingham Post

The transformation of the former George and Dragon into a new bar and apartments wins recognition from the Birmingham Civic Society. The renovation of a derelict former Birmingham pub which sat idle for almost two decades has won a conservation award.

The George and Dragon in the Jewellery Quarter reopened last summer as The Pig & Tail after undergoing a wholesale revamp to turn the run-down building into a new bar with apartments above. Birmingham Civic Society has awarded the redevelopment of the Grade II-listed pub in Albion Street its 2016 Renaissance Award.

The project was led by Birmingham-based property consultant Gurbinder Sandhu and designed by Jewellery Quarter architecture practice The Space Studio. Birmingham Civic Society said its planning committee, which judges the award, was highly impressed by the renovation and the commitment and vision of those involved.

Read more here.

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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.