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LATEST EVENTS MEMBERS ARCHIVE JOURNALS SERVICES ABOUT
Civic Voice - talking civic sense

civic sense - edition 2, July 2010

www.civicvoice.org.uk | 0151 708 9920 | info@civicvoice.org.uk | @civic_voice

Welcome

Welcome to this second issue of civic sense, full of news and information on public policy, planning and politics and some campaigning ideas. There is also news of Civic Voice's lobbying on your behalf in Whitehall and Westminster. Let us know what you would like more of and send in examples of what your group has been up to.

Action Checklist

civic sense includes a number of suggestions for things civic societies and other local groups can do. These are summarised in the checklist of actions below:

  • read and let Civic Voice have your feedback on English Heritage's new guidance on blue plaques
  • let us know if you have concerns about the future of our canal heritage and want to be part of a campaign network
  • say what you think the priorities for reform of the planning system should be by voting on Civic Voice's poll www.civicvoice.org.uk
  • tell us what you think of English Heritage's proposals for a National Heritage Protection Plan
  • claim a free place at one of English Heritage's workshops on the new historic environment planning guidance PPS5, courtesy of Civic Voice
  • join the Civic Voice/RSA discussion forum on communities and placemaking and feed in your views

And don't forget to write to your newly elected MP seeking a meeting and asking them to complete the Love Local survey available at http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/resources/love-your-local-constituency/

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Government and Politics

Whitehall watch

In this section Tony Burton provides an update on what Civic Voice is doing to influence Whitehall and Westminster.

Street Pride campaign

Tony Burton met with new Transport Minister, Norman Baker, to introduce the civic movement and seek Government action on street clutter. The Minister was confronted with photographic evidence provided by civic societies of the problems and has agreed to raise the public profile of the issue with a major speech. He says he wants action to "give streets and town centres back to the people" and confirmed the new Coalition Government's support for clutter-free streets. He has also asked civil servants to support the use of new ways of reporting issues like www.fixmystreet.com and is keen to meet further.

To see some of the photos presented to Norman Baker visit http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/campaigns/street-pride/

Planning for people

New Planning Minister, Bob Neill, has promised a radical shake up of the planning system and supported Civic Voice's view that more power needs to be given back to communities. In responding to Tony Burton at a recent meeting, he has agreed to meet and discuss the details and is keen to engage and involve civic societies. In his words, "the view that you can't trust local communities is not remotely acceptable in the 21st century".

Read more about what Bob Neill is saying at www.communities.gov.uk/newsstories/planningandbuilding/1622534

Big Society watch

Civic Voice is having detailed discussions across the new Coalition Government and with its advisers about the implications of the Big Society - with its commitment to handing more power to local communities to control the decisions that affect their lives. Major reforms of the planning system are one early example of this new emphasis. Civic Voice has been invited to join others in a meeting at 10 Downing Street where Prime Minister David Cameron will be listening for suggestions. What should Civic Voice focus on - let us know at info@civicvoice.org.uk

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"Localism, localism, localism"

These are the three professed priorities of new Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, on one of his first outings as a Government Minister. He set out the philosophy behind the Coalition Government's commitment to shaking up the balance of power between central and local government and communities. Helpfully the Minister emphasised that localism was about more than strengthening local government's role - "localism isn't just about giving power back to local government ... It's even more important that we push power downwards and outwards to the lowest possible level. Out to the folks themselves. Because if people know they can make a difference, then there's a reason to stand up and be counted. We want to make sure people can take control and take responsibility in their street, their estate, their town. Solving problems and taking action for themselves. With neighbourhoods, people working together, as the basis for the big society."

Read more here

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English Heritage Chair supports Civic Voice

In her first speech in the House of Lords after the General Election, English Heritage Chair, Kay Andrews, has given strong support to Civic Voice. She said:

"The Government have also made it clear that they want local communities and local authorities to take more control of future services and assets. In some ways they are building on what the previous Government did by putting local assets into the hands of local people to use for community benefit. There is nothing more potent, more local and more important to people than the place where they live. It does not matter whether it is the Sussex Weald or Victorian terraces. This is a Government who want us all to get involved and this is how people do so. Nothing is more evident than this in the big society. Organisations such as the Heritage Alliance and the new Civic Voice will give every encouragement to that."

Read Kay Andrews full speech here

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Planning and Transport

Garden grabbing curbs

The new Government has moved quickly to meet a commitment to protect back gardens from intensive development. Planning Policy Statement 3 Housing has been selectively revised to remove gardens from the definition of brownfield land, where new development is focused. Controversially, it has also removed the requirement for new housing to be built at a density of more than 30 dwellings per hectare. These changes have received a mixed reception with many pointing to the reality of some of the most attractive places in England being much denser and arguing for a new focus on design not density.

Find out more here and here and see how Bournemouth Civic Society features in the Government's follow-up here

Read the advice issued by the Planning Inspectorate here and see one influential reaction to the announcement here

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Regional plans torn up

In a few short sentences the new Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, has abolished regional planning and the housing numbers in regional plans with a letter sent to all local authorities. The letter is a "material consideration" in planning law and a number of local planning authorities have immediately changed their development plans to take advantage of their new freedoms.

Read Eric Pickles letter here and read the guidance issued by the Planning Inspectorate about the letter here.

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Budget culls RDAs

The recent Budget announced the abolition of Regional Development Agencies. They will be replaced by local authority led "local enterprise partnerships" in some places. The regional local authority leaders' boards, which took over most of the functions and staff of the old regional assemblies, are to be abolished although some regions are exploring informal arrangements for maintaining co-ordination between different local authorities.

Read more at http://www.communities.gov.uk/newsstories/newsroom/1626460

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High Speed Rail

Over 30 volunteers met with the Chief Executive of HS2, Alison Munro, at a Civic Voice workshop organised recently in Aylesbury. HS2 has been set up by the Government to promote a high speed rail link from London to Birmingham and beyond. The event provided groups with the chance for detailed questioning of the assumptions, proposals and consultation procedures being considered by HS2. The new Coalition Government has confirmed its support for HS2 while asking for it to look further at a route via Heathrow and also a direct link with HS1 at St Pancras.

The meeting also explored how the civic movement might influence the proposals and develop a campaign. Many volunteers strongly questioned some of the underlying assumptions behind the proposals - such as the likelihood of the projected passenger numbers ever materialising or the need to travel at such high speeds in a relatively small country when lower speeds would allow the line to curve more and fit better in the landscape. Others questioned whether the line would take much needed investment away from the rest of the rail network and whether it would generate new journeys or help shift them from roads and air.

There was real concern over the cumulative effect of the local impacts on town and landscapes and buildings and a call for civic societies to produce an impacts audit so these are not overlooked. It was recognised that this was an area where civic societies have a real contribution to make over and above the many other organisations already involved. There was a strong call for Civic Voice to help civic societies work together to mount an effective campaign and also to help mitigate against the worst impacts of the scheme whilst recognising the strategic arguments in its favour.

Copies of the presentations used at the HS2 workshop, the key issues raised by volunteers and other information is available at the revamped Civic Voice website at http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/campaigns/high-speed-rail/. Let us know if you want to get involved at info@civicvoice.org.uk

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Street Pride - who does what?

Civic Voice partners, the Public Realm Information Advice Network (PRIAN), has produced a helpful summary of responsibilities for the different types of street furniture and whether any consultation is required when making decision on its installation or location. Many civic societies have discussed this issue in detail at the Street Pride workshops that have been held around the country. Many believe this is a symptomn of local authorities not having a dedicated strategy to the public realm.

Check out the guide now by scrolling down on the dedicated civic society section of PRIAN's website here

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Planning reforms

The Government is planning a "localism" Bill for later this year which will include major reforms to the planning system based on the Conservative's earlier Open source planning green paper. These are sure to be a priority for Civic Voice and we are keen to hear what you think we should focus on.

  1. Read the Conservative's green paper here
  2. Vote on Civic Voice's priorities for planning reform poll here
  3. Read the recent online discussion at http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/forums/viewthread/13/
  4. Tell us what you like and don't like in the green paper at info@civicvoice.org.uk

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Planning obligations

The thorny question of "planning obligations" is being reviewed again - examining the extent to which development should be permitted where it provides "planning gain" in the form of services, open space and other benefits. The lengthy consultation paper also raises issues about how planning obligations relate to the new Community Infrastructure Levy which introduces new requirements to pool funds from different developments to deliver necessary infrastructure common to them all.

Let Civic Voice have your thoughts at info@civicvoice.org.uk.

Read the consultation paper here

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Planning Inspectorate

The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed it is looking at radical reforms in response to the new Coalition Government's focus on localism. At a recent meeting with Civic Voice and other interest groups its key officials expressed sympathy for the view that communities need to be treated more fairly and more decisions made locally. Civic societies may also wish to be aware of the Inspectorate's complaints service which has only recently gone online and can be found at http://www.planning-inspectorate.gov.uk/pins/agency_info/complaints/complaints_dealing.htm

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Research, reports and campaigns

The power of supermarkets

The influence of supermarkets on urban development has been vigorously debated over the years and is a hot topic for civic societies across the country.

Government design champion CABE has shown how major supermarkets are responsible for much more than food shopping - they are probably the most important driver of urban regeneration in the country. Indeed, they are among the country's largest housebuilders. This debate has become ever more intense as supermarkets are barred from out of town sites and so focus on prime urban sites. CABE's work is helpful in showing how schemes can be better designed.

Read more about CABE's design reviews here

If you are facing a supermarket campaign and want to know how others have fared then visit the "Tescopoly" website which is fast developing as an essential resource for local groups. As well as providing information and inspiration there are some excellent resources for local campaigners.

Find out more about Tescopoly here

if you are interested in helping set up a campaign network of civic society volunteers interested in supermarkets to share ideas and experience let us know at info@civicvoice.org.uk

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Blue plaques guidance and survey

English Heritage has produced detailed new guidance on commemorative plaques and plaque schemes. Running to over 160 pages it is a vital source of information and guidance and contains numerous references to the work of civic societies. There is helpful advice on selection criteria and approaches to historical research as well as other practicalities, although some may find the suggested approached more complex than necessary.

The guidance is available to download here and hard copies can be obtained free from English Heritage's Blue Plaques Coordinator, Jane Biro, on jane.biro@english-heritage.org.uk or 020 7973 3753.

Civic Voice has been invited to meet English Heritage and feedback on the guidance. We would welcome your reactions to it on info@civicvoice.org.uk

Bath Preservation Trust - a member of Civic Voice - is undertaking further work on Blue Plaques and would be grateful for responses to the following questions:

1. Does your city/town run a plaque scheme noting important people/buildings?
2. Is it run by the Civic Society/local authority/other?
3. How is it funded (amount, source) and administered (process)?

Please will you send responses with details of where you are located to its Chief Executive, Caroline Kay on ckay@bptrust.org.uk

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Canals campaign

Civic Voice is picking up rumblings of concern about the implications of British Waterways development plans for the future of our canals. These are part of wider moves that would see British Waterway's become part of the voluntary sector as a charity or mutual organisation. The new Government has said it is supportive of these proposals.

As Judy Vero, Atherstone Civic Society, writes:

"Atherstone is on the Coventry Canal which has a number of historic sites in the vicinity which are at risk. The most prominent is Hartshill Wharf, a small complex of bridges, waterways, workshops, yard and manager's house. It used to be opened occasionally to the public but was leased to a building company about two years ago with, what I believe is an option to buy. This company has already erected unsympathetic fencing to protect its building materials. We are concerned that, once it has acquired the building, it may be difficult for British Waterways to control activity there, although, as I understand it, they do put restrictive covenants on property they sell.

I raised the issue with British Waterways over a year ago and also my concern that the lock cottage at Atherstone and its keeper, who was awarded an MBE for his services to the canal, would be safe. I was assured that there was no intention to dispense with the lock keeper and that he was safe in his cottage for the foreseeable future. Just recently I learned that he is to be made redundant and evicted. This has shocked the community as, not only is Tony Wright an exemplary lock-keeper but an active member of the community and a great champion of the canal. Atherstone has pockets of deprivation and the canal has suffered a number of incidents concerning nuisance youths, including the killing of swans, and attacks on barges. Tony organised canoe lessons for the local youths and succeeded in weaning them from nuisance behaviour. I cannot imagine what the canal will be like without him. It is essential that there is a lock keeper and some reassurance that there is a watching eye to encourage passing boats to tie up in Atherstone and bring their trade to the town. Currently some 5000 boats per year pass through.

I understand that the last Government diverted to the farming subsidy budget some £150 million from DEFRA's grant to British Waterways. Now British Waterways can only make ends meet by selling off the family silver. I strongly support British Waterways moving into the Third Sector but it may be a case of shutting the stable door, because the features that make the waterways so attractive to tourists and local people may be damaged beyond repair as property is sold off and unsympathetic alterations are made. I have already heard that people are buying up lock cottages and then put in planning applications to extend them into 4-bed houses."

There is more information on British Waterways plans here

Do you share these concerns? Have you a local problem? Tell us at info@civicvoice.org.uk and we will see if there is enough interest to help set up a campaign network.

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Resilient places

DEMOS has published a thoughtful essay on the role of heritage in helping urban areas cope with austerity, demonstrating how it builds resilience and supports renewal. Resilient places focuses on the role of heritage infrastructure, canals, sewers, railways etc in providing the basis for renewal. One of its ideas is to extend the "right to roam" to disused railway lines and old canals.

Read more here and see the BBC's coverage here

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Understanding place

English Heritage has produced an array of helpful new guidance on how best to undertake an assessment to help understand places through their historical development

Read the overview here

Read the guidance on historic area assessments here

Read the principles on historic area assessments here

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Outrage revisited

Ian Nairn's 1955 polemic Outrage is one of the seminal works for the civic movement for the way it conveyed the spread of "subtopia" and the growing blandness that was afflicting England and damaging any sense of place. It was undoubtedly one stimulus which led to the creation of the Civic Trust.

Journalist Jonathan Glancey has taken a fresh look at the spirit of Nairn's work and produced a series of short videos as Outrage Revisited for the Guardian. They make for good viewing and can be seen here

Civic Voice would welcome sight of a copy of Ian Nairn's original work so if you know where you can lay hands on a copy then contact us at info@civicvoice.org.uk

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National Heritage Protection Plan

English Heritage is consulting over its first "National Heritage Protection Plan" - this seeks to prioritise different aspects of heritage in terms of English Heritage's own research, funding and designation work. It is a complex task and Civic Voice has already encouraged English Heritage to:

  1. Work more in partnership so it provides a set of priorities for the heritage movement and not just English Heritage
  2. Open up the process to more community involvement, making the best use of community knowledge and participation in identifying what is and is not significant, complementing the undoubted expertise of English Heritage and other heritage professionals
  3. Do more work to try an anticipate the heritage people will value in the future
  4. Attach more importance to heritage of local significance.

Read more here and let Civic Voice have your thoughts at info@civicvoice.org.uk

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English Heritage archives now online

English Heritage holds an immense historical archive of maps, photos and other documents and these can now be searched for and accessed free online. Documents can be ordered for a varying charge. Why not visit the site and put in the name of your local area - you may be surprised what you find among the million plus items which are held!

Read more at http://www.englishheritagearchives.org.uk/

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Claim your free place at PPS5 workshop

Civic Voice has three free places for civic society volunteers at each of the five new workshops being organised by English Heritage on the new PPS5 which sets out planning policies for the historic environment.

Details of the events are available here and you should contact Ian Harvey on info@civicvoice.org.uk to claim your place (first come, first served). We would welcome feedback on what you learn.

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Wind power and planning

A useful run through of the arguments surrounding the impact and benefits of wind power and the planning system has been produced in academic journal Planning theory and practice. With contributions from the renewables industry, CPRE and academics it is a help reminder of the complexity of the different perspectives.

Read the journal here

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Nominate your favourite townscape project for an award

The hunt is on for the finest landscape project in the UK and the way it benefits communities. This is part of the UK's contribution to the European Landscape Convention and the winning entry in the UK Landscape Award will go on to compete at a European level. The competition is for more than fine countryside and coast and townscape and urban projects are likely to be in hot competition. Is there something going on in your area which is worthy of an award? Civic societies are eligible to nominate projects directly and these need to be submitted before 27 August. There will be a major conference in Liverpool on 8 November where the winners will be announced.

Find out more information here

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Key Partnerships

Civic Voice in new "placemaking" partnership

Civic Voice has joined up with the influential RSA to develop a special website where everyone can discuss the importance of communities and place. The site plans to bring together RSA Fellows and local civic volunteers in creative ways to share views and ideas. Tony Burton has already used the site to unpack the important difference between "civil" and "civic", terms which are often used interchangeably. Why not join up, take a look and make your own views known.

Find out more about the partnership here

Join in the discussion here

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Heritage Alliance

Civic Voice has joined the Heritage Alliance - the largest alliance of voluntary heritage organisations in the country with a remit to campaign and support the heritage movement.

Heritage Alliance's regular Bulletin is a rich source of information on heritage news and issues and is available free to all civic societies who join Civic Voice. You can see the latest issue at http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/resources/heritage-link-update-187/

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Community Sector Coalition

Civic Voice has joined the Community Sector Coalition which puts us in partnership with a wide range of community based organisations ranging from Community Matters and the Development Trusts Association to ACRE (Action with Communities Rural England) and BTCV. This will help us in lobbying on key community issues and raise our profile in the community world.

Find out more here

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Government and Politics

Whitehall watch

"Localism, localism, localism"

English Heritage Chair supports Civic Voice

Planning and Transport

Garden grabbing curbs

Regional plans torn up

Budget culls RDAs

High Speed Rail

Street Pride - who does what?

Planning reforms

Planning obligations

Planning Inspectorate

Research, reports and campaigns

The power of supermarkets

Blue plaques guidance and survey

Canals campaign

Resilient places

Understanding place

Outrage revisited

National Heritage Protection Plan

English Heritage archives now online

Claim your free place at PPS5 workshop

Wind power and planning

Nominate your favourite townscape project for an award

Key Partnerships

Civic Voice in new "placemaking" partnership

Heritage Alliance

Community Sector Coalition

Key Links

The Heritage Alliance promotes the role of the voluntary movement in the heritage sector

Public Realm advice for civic societies

Community Sector Coalition - the independent voice of the community sector

The Planning Portal - your one-stop-shop for planning information online

Tescopoly - the website for supermarket campaigners

Permitted Development - for all those confused by what does and does not need a planning application



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