Civic Update

9 February 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.


As we get closer to March 2018 and the anticipated release of a revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), we can expect to be subjected to plenty of rumours and pre-publication announcements in order to remind everyone that the Government is taking the housing crisis seriously. Indeed it has already started with new Housing Minister, Dominic Raab MP spending the past weekend speaking to the media. The key question will be whether any of the changes to the NPPF are actually going to make a fundamental difference in solving the problem, or whether they just serve a purpose in making it known that the Government recognises that there is one? Will it be more tinkering around the edge?

Civic Voice believes in the importance of the planning system. It combines vision with necessary regulation and plays a critical role in positively managing development, which protects and improves the quality and prosperity of places. We believe a revised NPPF needs to be strengthened and supported through improved opportunities for public engagement and that whatever changes are recommended, another major issue is that the planning system needs effective resources, particularly at local authority level, to produce timely plans with quality of place at their heart.

We look forward to hearing the views of Civic Voice members on what changes you think are needed to the National Planning Policy Framework. Over the next 2 months we will be arranging a series of member only debates to help shape our response, as we work best when what we do is informed by our members’ practical experience and local knowledge. In the meantime, do share any initial thoughts you have with us at:


Member profile - new Civic Voice member, The Ashton Society

Picture: Ashton Society logo

The Ashton Society, this week, became Civic Voice's newest and youngest member, forming as a civic society earlier this year. The society aims to bring people who care about Ashton Village and Ashton Wold in East Northamptonshire together.

Thanks to the singular vision of Charles Rothschild (details of his life here) who redesigned Ashton as a model estate village in 1900, Ashton is a unique setting. Over the past few years the area has transitioned from ownership by one family to individual home and land owners, allowing many more people to have a vision for the village.

In 2016, some of these new stakeholders began to contact former villagers as well as charities with a connection to the pioneering conservation work of Charles and Miriam Rothschild with an aim of keeping the stories of Ashton alive, celebrating our past and getting involved in future plans for the village.

Out of this, in 2017, The Ashton Society held a village talk (see here), contributed to a Parish Day and represented Ashton in the World Conker Championships (see here). Individuals also got involved in the consultation process of a conservation appraisal for Ashton Parish. Many of their suggested amendments were included in the final document adopted by East Northamptonshire Council which also saw Ashton Wold (more information here) become a second conservation area in addition to Ashton Village.

In 2018, supporters decided to formally establish The Ashton Society as a member-run civic group. Membership is now open to everyone who shares our aims. You can read their constitution here and apply to become a member for just £2.50.

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Helen Kidman shares her thoughts on brownfield registers and why Civic Voice members should be keeping an eye on them.

Photograph: Housing area from above

Idly watching the Parliament Channel last week, I saw the housing minister Dominic Raab speaking at a select committee meeting about Brownfield Sites. He explained that the Brownfield Land Register) Regulations 2017 required local planning authorities in England to prepare, maintain and publish registers of previously developed (brownfield) land by 31 December 2017. It was stated that some 90% of local authorities have now published a register of such sites. So I went on line and had a look at my local authority’s.

Brownfield land registers will provide up-to-date and consistent information on sites that local authorities consider to be appropriate for residential development having regard to the criteria set out in regulation 4 of the Town and Country Planning (Brownfield Land Register) Regulations 2017. Local planning authorities will be able to trigger a grant of permission in principle for residential development for sites in their registers where they follow the required procedures. Registers will be in two parts, Part 1 will comprise all brownfield sites appropriate for residential development and Part 2 those sites granted permission in principle. Registers should be published locally as open data and will provide transparent information about suitable and available sites.

The Local Plan for my home area, Bradford, is at the critical stage with continuing arguments over housing numbers still going on. An examination of the Strategic Housing Land Allocation Assessment (SHLAA) is to commence later this year. The Brownfield Sites Register is a useful document as it can highlight potential sites, some of which have been vacant for a long time which could be used for house building. There are hundreds of sites listed. We shall be scrutinising the register and map carefully. It’s important that we use up brownfield sites before green field and green belt land.

A cursory glance at the register shows that a number of sites have already been discounted by planners. Additionally, in some cases, the site owner is not known or is not making their intentions clear. The ownership, at least, should be in the public domain, via the Land Registry. Some sites have lapsed planning applications, sometimes for hundreds of homes.

Other societies who have problems with housing numbers might find it useful to check out the Brownfield Site Registers in their areas and investigate what is happening to the sites listed.


Government Brownfield Land Register here

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Why Sutton Coldfield Civic Society are involved in piloting the Civic Voice Conservation Audit

Photograph: Society members doing audit in street

Since Laura Sandys asked civic societies to work with us to pilot a new tool to help assess the condition of your local conservation area, we have been pleased to see that 15 civic societies have responded. It is clear to us that community groups want to take action in identifying the issues putting conservation areas at risk.

One individual who has been involved in developing the tool, as a participant of the Civic Voice National Regional forum is Elizabeth Allison, (Sutton Coldfield and West Masa representative).

Elizabeth said: "In Sutton Coldfield, we have three conservation areas, including Sutton Coldfield High Street Conservation Area, which last had a management plan published in 2015. The area is not at risk, but as a society we do feel as though the increase in advertising and signage is gradually changing the character of the area. Sutton Coldfield Civic Society has long championed our local heritage and in 2010, we developed a Community Led Conservation Area appraisal, so we are always keen for the society to do its bit to protect local heritage."

Read Elizabeth's full blog here.

You still have time to get involved in developing the tool and we do need more input so if you want to be involved in the pilot, email Sarah James here. We will let you know how it goes over the next few weeks.

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Engaging Young People in Heritage events coming to a neighbourhood near you

It has never been easier for civic groups to work with schools and colleges and the reasons for doing so have never been more compelling. Key Stage 3 and 4 both now have a dedicated Citizenship programme of study. Many different civic groups across England are already regularly working with schools and colleges and are deepening their relationships. Others are planning to get involved for the first time.

However, many civic groups say that they are unsure about how to go about developing a relationship with a local school, so, Civic Voice, in partnership with War Memorials Trust, has put together the following training events that we hope will help you.

We want to use the events to show how community groups can engage with new audiences and consider how we ensure young people get involved in the historic environment sector.

Engaging Young People in Heritage events coming to a neighbourhood near you:

You will hear from some of the inspiring volunteers about the ways they are commemorating the First World War. You will also have the chance to hear speakers from Civic Voice, Historic England, Imperial War Museums and War Memorials Trust. We hope you will be inspired to go back to your own community to identify and record the condition of your own memorials as the nation remembers the fallen 100 years on.

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Christopher Pincher MP has joined Tamworth & District Civic Society

Photograph: Christopher Pincher MP and members of Civic Society

Tamworth's Member of Parliament, Christopher Pincher has this month joined his local Civic Society. The Government's Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household has supported many events of The Tamworth and District Civic Society (TDCS) since it re-launched in 2015, but has now joined this very active and vibrant civic group. TDCS Chairman Dr. David Biggs said "We are of course a non-party political organisation, but we are naturally delighted by this vote of confidence from Tamworth's M.P. for what we are striving to achieve for our area."

Pictured at the Launch of Civic Day 2017 at Westminster in November 2016 are: Craig Mackinlay MP, Chairman of the APPG for Civic Societies; North Warwickshire's MP, Craig Tracey; TDCS Chairman and Civic Volunteer 2016 David Biggs; and Tamworth MP Chris Pincher (photo copyright: Craig Tracey).

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Heritage and Conservation Areas in London - What next?

Graph: Conservation areas at risk by region

Civic societies from across London will be heading to a debate organised by the London Forum in a few weeks on 'Heritage and Conservation Areas in London - What next?' The meeting on March 6th will discuss Heritage and Conservation Areas in London as, across London, nearly 80 conservation areas have been designated at risk, more than any other region.

Two speakers from Historic England, David English and Duncan McCallum will review 50 years of Conservation Areas, how they and other parts of our heritage are affected by changing planning policy and borough decisions and what communities could do to assist in conservation.

Regional meetings are held throughout the year across England. You can see more dates here.

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Yorkshire civic societies gather in Harrogate to celebrate the impact of the civic movement across Yorkshire

Photographs: Yorkshire meeting

Nearly 60 members and guests assembled at the Cedar Court Hotel in Harrogate at the end of January for the Annual General Meeting of the Yorkshire and Humber Association of Civic Societies (YHACS). Some, who travelled to Harrogate on the evening before the meeting met in the hotel bar for drinks before moving to the restaurant for the traditional pre-AGM dinner; a lively and enjoyable occasion as always.

On the morning of the AGM, Stewart Holland, a member of Harrogate Civic Society, gave an informative talk contrasting how the town had changed over the life and times of HM The Queen; relating local developments to what was happening in society more generally, both at home and abroad. Members then took the opportunity to have lunch ahead of the afternoon meeting.

Opening the AGM, YHACS Chair Kevin Trickett welcomed everyone to the AGM including special guests Sarah James from Civic Voice and Susan Spibey, deputy chair of the North West Association of Civic Trusts and Societies. Members congratulated Kevin on the award of an MBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List.

Read a full write up from Harrogate here.

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