Press Release

28th September 2017


Civic Voice Executive Director calls for an end to the cutting of local conservation staff

Civic Voice launches survey saying, “Tell us the impact of conservation cuts”

Ahead of a speech in London on Tuesday 3rd October to an audience of heritage professionals, Ian Harvey, Executive Director of Civic Voice has called for an end to the continued cutting of local conservation officers in local government and launched a survey to investigate the impact.

Research by Historic England and the IHBC shows that one in five local authorities now do not have their own conservation officer. Many authorities, at best, have limited part- time advice. Civic Voice says that the scale of the local government cutbacks means that we really must question the capacity of many local authorities to cope with even their statutory conservation duties. As the nation celebrates 50 years to the day that Stamford, Lincolnshire was designated as a Conservation Area under the Civic Amenities Act 1967 Ian Harvey said:

"The conclusion is simple; fewer staff providing advice to local authorities is threatening the future of our historic environment. As we celebrate 28th September 2017 and 50 years to the day that Stamford became the first conservation area, this is wrong. With conservation staff numbers being so hard hit by cuts, we have to ask how councils are coping with their duties to manage the historic environment.

“In order to conserve and enhance the historic environment local authorities need sufficient resources to manage their statutory obligations. We are calling on national government to ensure that any review of the National Planning Policy Framework makes it clear that local planning authorities should ensure they have access to sufficient in-house resources, including suitably qualified in-house staff to advise on matters of conservation policy, to ensure that works are carried out as approved and enforcement can be undertaken. Our new publication in partnership with IHBC explains the importance of conservation skills in further detail."

Civic Voice is writing to the Housing Minister and Heritage Minister, local planning authorities and all MPs with the new publication “Conservation Professional Practice Principles” demonstrating the importance of the need for in-house conservation skills.

Harvey added “Conservation Areas are as much a part of the fabric of this country as the Green Belt is in shaping our towns, cities and villages. London School of Economic Research shows that houses in conservation areas sell for a premium of 9% on average, after controlling for other factors. It shows the value of conservation areas. We now need to stand up and say 50 years ago, communities were calling for help in protecting the historic environment. Duncan Sandys and others responded with the Civic Amenities Act 1967. 50 years later, communities are again asking for help. We have a choice to make. We either realise that the historic environment and conservation areas add value to the character and identity of the country and resource it accordingly or future generations will ask “why did we let this happen” as we see more examples of our historic environment seeing death by a thousand cuts. The civic movement is ready to hear that call".


  • Ian Harvey is the keynote speaker at the IHBC London event – tickets available here
  • The Civic Voice survey: Impact of loss of conservation officers is available here
  • Workshops at the Civic Voice Annual Convention can be viewed here

Civic Voice is using the 50th anniversary to also launch the full programme of workshops and activities for the Civic Voice Annual Convention in Wakefield on 20/21 October. The workshops, walks, talks and speakers will highlight specific lessons to showcase innovative responses to demonstrate how communities are filling the role of local authorities. Speakers for the conference include Laura Sandys, Vice-President of Civic Voice; Trevor Mitchell, Historic England Regional Director; The Deal Society and The Ilkley Society who will all be sharing thoughts on how they are making the case for conservation.

Civic Voice Annual Convention will bring together a range of speakers who represent different backgrounds and professions from national policy makers to community group representative who have helped inspire change in their local Conservation Area. Workshops, walks, talks and speakers will highlight specific lessons and showcase innovative responses to demonstrate how communities are filling the role of local authorities as we witness a 36% decrease in conservation staff in local government.

Ian will be using his talk to talk about the national civic movement and will be highlighting how important the civic movement is to the future of conservation areas. He will be talking about the work of groups including Birmingham Civic Society, The Deal Society, Ilkley Civic Society and Reading Civic Society and many other groups standing up for their historic environment. He will be saying, civic societies are part of the solution.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Ian Harvey, Civic Voice (m) 07877096968 (t) 01217928177. ian.harvey@civicvoice.org.uk

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