Civic Update

8 December 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.


This week, we announced that the Civic Voice Design Awards 2018 is now open for applications and encourage all civic societies and other community groups across England to nominate schemes that they are proud of for their high-quality design and positive impact on the local community. Linking with the publication of Heritage Counts 2017 this week and continuing Civic Voice’s Big Conservation Conversation, the announcement also highlighted examples of last year’s award-winning projects demonstrating that ‘new development can enhance Conservation Areas’.

Announcing the awards, Max Farrell, Chair of the judging panel said: “We look forward to seeing the very best in new build, housing, heritage, public realm and open space projects as nominated by communities across England. And continuing Civic Voice’s Big Conservation Conversation to make the case for conservation areas, there will also be a special award again this year for an outstanding development within a Conservation Area, which could be awarded from any category. The judges will be looking for excellence in terms of high quality of design and construction and community participation and engagement throughout, we call upon all communities to start nominating!”

The deadline for applications is 14th February 2018. Learn more here.


Be inspired by last year's Civic Voice Design Award winners

Photograph: Cedars Wells, Wells Photograph: Warwick Hall, Burford Photograph: Sunbridge Wells interior, Bradford

(Top) Cedars Hall, (Wells) (l-r) Warwick Hall, (Burford) & Sunbridge Wells (Bradford)

Thinking of nominating a development for a Civic Voice Design Award in 2018? Be inspired by our new case studies of award-winning projects including Cedars Hall, Wells here; Sunbridge Wells, Bradford here; and Warwick Hall Community Centre, Burford here. These projects were awarded Special Conservation Area Awards earlier this year for all being visionary projects which enhance their local conservation areas.

Full details of how to apply for the 2018 Awards as available here.

As part of the Civic Voice Design Award being launched, 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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Heritage Counts 2017 has been released and it makes it clear that conservation areas matter!

Picture: Outline of England

Heritage Counts 2017 is the 16th annual survey of the state of England’s historic environment. It is produced by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum.

As regular readers of civic update will know, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of conservation areas through the Civic Amenities Act 1967. Research commissioned for Heritage Counts 2017, to commemorate this anniversary, analyses socio-economic trends in conservation areas to understand the wider effects of this important planning tool.

The evidence gathered for Heritage Counts 2017 include headlines such as:

  • 6.8 million people live in a conservation area
  • 74% of adults in England believe local authorities should have the powers to restrict changes to buildings and streets in order to protect the character and appearance of a conservation area.
  • Over 34% of all designated conservation areas have been amended since they were originally designated.
  • In a recent survey of members of Civic Voice and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, 8% and 35% respectively, considered that some areas locally did not deserve designation (Historic England, 2017)

The evidence shows that conservation area designation isn't about preventing change. Neither is it about increasing property values. It's about preserving and enhancing the distinctive character of a local area. This is what makes conservation areas so popular amongst members of the public and residents. They are places people want to live in because conservation area designation ensures careful consideration is given to the design of any new build scheme and how it harmonises with its surroundings. In this sense, they are good examples of good place making.

Read Heritage Counts here.

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Helen Kidman makes the case for conservation areas at Historic England regional meeting

Photograph: Helen Kidman

Helen Kidman represented Civic Voice this week and spoke on the Big Conservation Conversation at an Historic England regional event in York. Helen explained that the number of conservation areas at risk now stands at 512 after surveys of almost 84 per cent of conservation areas across the country. This means that 6% per cent of England’s conservation areas are now considered to be at risk. She explained that with funding cuts and continued pressure on local authority conservation staff (33 per cent of conservation staff lost since 2007), the problem is likely to get worse.

She explained that Civic Voice will continue to work together to continue to inspire more civic action in conservation areas so as to see greater greater community engagement and participation in shaping new developments in conservation areas.

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Why would anyone actually be interested in what civic societies do? Kevin Trickett from Wakefield asks on our blog "Do all civic societies need an elevator pitch?"

So, imagine the scenario. You have a chance encounter with someone who could help change your society’s fortunes for the better. They don’t know you and they’ve never heard of your society. You have their attention, they’re looking you in the eye, they’re ready to listen but you don’t have long. Fluff this moment and you’re history. What do you say that will capture their attention and make them want to learn more? This is where your ‘elevator pitch’ is vital.

Read the full blog on Kevin Trickett’s website here.

Interested in writing a blog on an issue impacting the civic movement? Get in touch at to discuss it. A great way to raise the “civic debate” on a key issue.

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Guidance Open for Consultation on Neighbourhood Planning

Neighbourhood planning is another tool to help shape where you live. We see no reason why a conservation area in itself could not be covered by a neighbourhood plan and many, if not most, neighbourhood planning areas, ranging from small villages to town and city centres, will include heritage, such as listed buildings, conservation areas and buildings on local lists.

It is not a surprise for us to see Historic England issuing an updated advice note exploring the role of the historic environment in neighbourhood plans; see here. It is written for those involved in preparing neighbourhood plans (neighbourhood planning groups, local planning authorities and others). It advises on how to cover heritage effectively and make the most of the opportunities available. It is being updated now to take account of and help respond to the current practicalities of preparing a neighbourhood plan.

Comments are welcome on any aspect of the text. Please help Historic England to ensure that the advice note is readable and useful. Tell Historic England if something needs to be explained more clearly or a key issue has been omitted or not considered in enough detail.

The advice note will replace Neighbourhood Planning Information August 2014, see here and this consultation closes on Friday 15 December 2017.

It is important the civic and conservation societies respond to this consultation to ensure that the advice being provided to groups on the historic environment is up to date and appropriate.

Some of the points you might want to focus on might include:

  • Does this document relate to your own experience? Does it provide the answers to the questions you have considered?
  • Do you feel as though it sufficiently explains the evidence base for heritage? Is there enough recognition of the other evidence requirements around use, economy, viability, etc.
  • Does it cover heritage and sustainable growth in your view? Should it?
  • Does it cover how the planning system and heritage interact in practice?
  • Do you feel as though it has an appropriate understanding of how community and stakeholder engagement works for neighbourhood plans?
  • Is heritage considered in the widest terms possible to include its cultural, economic, social and environmental value?
  • Does it help explain how heritage interacts with other policy areas?
  • These are just some thoughts we have, but please share anything you have with Historic England. It is important that they get this right.

The draft guidance and details of how to respond to the consultation can be found here.

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Civic Voice talks; celebrating the best of the past and inspiring the future

Photograph: David Evans (Civic Voice Trustee) and David Biggs (Tamworth & District Civic Society)

David Evans (Civic Voice Trustee) and David Biggs (Tamworth & District Civic Society)

Over the last few weeks Civic Voice has been busy speaking to lots of local societies, with visits to The Civic Society of Great Yarmouth and the Coventry Society where we were looking to the future of the civic movement and a talk to the Tamworth and District Civic Society, where we were reflecting on the past, celebrating 50 years of conservation areas.

In speaking to Great Yarmouth, a new civic society set up in September 2017, Ian Harvey inspired the society to think about its potential, providing examples of what a civic society could achieve. A similar theme emerged in the workshop with the Coventry Society too, helping an established society to develop a strategy for the future, using the Civic Society Assessment Toolkit, which you can download here.

During his talk to Tamworth and District Civic Society, Professor David Evans (Civic Voice Trustee) said: "Conservation areas are our everyday heritage but 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."

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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.