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LATEST EVENTS MEMBERS ARCHIVE JOURNALS SERVICES ABOUT
Issue 4, November 2010
Civic Voice - talking civic sense

civic sense

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

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Welcome

Welcome to this fourth and bumper issue of civic sense. It is packed with information and the latest news on public policy, planning and politics as well as updates on Civic Voice campaigns and how you can join in. Use the hotlinks to find the information you need

Action Checklist

civic sense includes a number of suggestions for things civic societies and other local groups can do:

  1. Tell us about your tree planting initiatives here
  2. Make yourself known to one of the 24 new Local Economic Partnerships being created across England here
  3. Register with the Open All Hours? network of civic societies and residents groups if you are concerned about the impact of drinking and anti social behaviour in city and town centres here
  4. Tell us which RDA assets have heritage or environmental value here
  5. Watch Griff Rhys Jones as Civic Voice President on the BBC Politics Show here
  6. Sign up for a visit to see how civic societies influenced the High Speed Rail line in Kent here

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Whitehall Watch

Party leaders fight over local ground

The keynote speeches by David Cameron and Ed Miliband to their Party Conferences both emphasised the importance of local community action and valuing a local quality of life.

As Ed Miliband put it:

"Work is a central part of life. But it is not all that matters. Here is our generation's paradox: the biggest ever consumers of goods and services, but a generation that yearns for the things that business cannot provide ... Green spaces ... Community life ...

We must be on the side of communities who want to save their local post office, not be the people trying to close it. We must be on the side of people trying to protect their high street from looking like every other high street, not the people who say that's just the forces of progress. And we must be on the side of those who are dismayed by the undermining of the local pub with cut-price alcohol from supermarkets.

We must shed old thinking and stand up for those who believe there is more to life than the bottom line."

While David Cameron expressed similar sentiments:

" ... .Not just building prosperous, competitive economies, providing good public services and paying for pensions but creating strong societies, improving quality of life, ensuring that everyone feels they belong....

More power for neighbourhoods to keep local pubs open, stop post offices from closing, to run local parks, to plan the look, shape and feel of their area."

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Spending review

The political agenda has been dominated by the Comprehensive Spending Review, the implications of which will take some time to work through the system. The headlines for the civic movement are:

  1. The decision to retain English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund as separate bodies
  2. A consequence of which was that DCMS had to find late savings and withdrew its funding for CABE - this is a serious blow given CABE's role as a champion of quality places and good urban design and as a potential source of support and funding for civic societies and the civic movement
  3. Above average cuts in English Heritage's funding as a consequence of retaining free opening for museums - resulting in plans here to reduce staff by 200 and focus on caring for buildings and advising local planning authorities; these changes will also have an impact on the organisation of Heritage Open Days
  4. New freedoms for local councils and ever stronger commitments to localism amid major funding cuts which will lead to major staff reductions in local government
  5. Some additional funding for capital projects, including HS2
  6. Uncosted commitments to further sales of public sector land and buildings without reference to its wider community or heritage value

The wider message from the Spending Review is to demonstrate the importance of the civic movement becoming as financially independent as possible moving forward.

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Nick Hurd meeting

Civic Voice has met Nick Hurd MP, the Minister for Civil Society along with Laura Sandys MP, daughter of Civic Trust founder Duncan Sandys. We were able to press our case for the civic movement being at the heart of the Big Society and will be influencing the Government's new strategy here.

Nick Hurd was impressed by the opportunities civic societies have to take the initiative locally and not wait for local councils to act. After the meeting, Nick Hurd communicated via Twitter "I was impressed by what I heard today about the civic society movement "

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Government and Politics

The Big Tree Plant

Civic Voice is lending its support to the national tree planting campaign which will be launched in National Tree Week in early December. Provisionally known as the Big Tree Plant this will encourage people across the country to plant and care for trees in towns and cities. We are working hard to ensure the campaign provides the support, money and advice to make it a success for civic societies. A large number of civic societies are already involved in tree planting initiatives - to name just two, Glastonbury Conservation Society has planted over 43,000 and Birmingham Civic Society runs a major initiative - Trees for Life (www.btfl.org.uk) which benefits the whole city. We would love to hear from other civic societies involved in tree planting - please send us details at info@civicvoice.org.uk

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New planning laws about to be revealed

The Decentralisation and Localism Bill is due to be published in late November. This will include the major changes to the planning system which have been heralded in earlier issues of civic sense as well as other measures such as the new community right to build (see more here). Planning Minister Greg Clark MP has responded to Civic Voice's representations (see here) promising the "measures will build on many of the priorities you outline for Civic Voice such as a more accessible and forward-looking planning system, a bottom-up collaborative approach, effective enforcement and extensive community engagement."

Civic Voice will be working on influencing the legislation and we will be in touch with civic societies about how best to lobby your local MPs.

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Local Economic Partnerships

The Government has rewritten the way in which economic development is funded and managed with the publication of the Local Growth White Paper. This confirms the abolition of Regional Development Agencies and announces the creation of 24 Local Economic Partnerships. These will shape economic priorities and should include civil society organisations although they are likely to be led by business and local government. The changes include the introduction of incentives to encourage local planning authorities to permit development in their area.

The new approach is best summarised in a speech by CLG Minister Greg Clark here

Read the Local Growth White Paper and see whether you now have a Local Economic Partnership here

Look at the interactive map of the new Local Economic Partnerships here to see which local authorities are included

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Anxiety over disposal of RDA assets

A number of civic societies have expressed concern over the future of important assets held by RDAs now their days are numbered. We have secured a list of all their assets by having some Parliamentary Questions asked in the House of Commons. Unfortunately the Government says it is unable to tell us which have been designated, listed or scheduled for their environmental or heritage value. We are now asking civic societies, therefore, to help plug the gap. Please have a look at the list here to see what is in your area and tell us what you know about them. It would be particularly helpful to know which of the assets:

  1. are listed or scheduled
  2. have heritage value for other reasons
  3. have no obvious heritage value.

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Taking control of council budgets

A growing number of local authorities are now involving communities in decisions over local spending priorities in a process known as "participatory budgeting. There is a variety of innovative methods being used - including the online tool produced by Redbridge in London here. There has been criticism in some quarters that the approaches are too simplistic (such as here) but the opportunities are set to grow. Why not ask your local council what plans it has to devolve more decisions on spending priorities and take a look at the helpful overview produced by NESTA and the Big Society Network here.

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Nature's capital

A new White Paper on the natural world is being prepared by the Government for spring next year - covering everything from rare wildlife and wild landscapes to local green space. Our Love Local survey clearly showed the importance of green space, rivers and natural views to people's sense of civic pride and we are making this known as part of the Government led discussion. Read what Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman MP has to say here, and the Government discussion paper here and send us your views to info@civicvoice.org.uk

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Planning and Transport

Street Pride gains momentum

The campaign to cut street clutter is going from strength to strength after the Government's support for Civic Voice's campaign was announced in August - see our news alert here

A flurry of announcements from CABE here and English Heritage here have backed up the campaign and we have helped Marple Civic Society and Dronfield Civic Society get free expert help to advise them on clearing street clutter as part of a CABE initiative. Marple Civic Society went even further and had CLG Big Society Minister Andrew Stunell MP undertaking a Street Pride survey in their area (see picture here)

A new Manual for Streets 2 has also been published which provides highway engineers and others with detailed guidance on how to reduce clutter. This is introduced by CABE here with some good examples of action that has been taken. The Government's support is confirmed here. The first print run has already sold out so it is proving popular. We have lobbied the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation and secured a 20% reduction in the £43 cost of Manual for Streets 2 for civic societies. You can see some of the content from the official launch and obtain copies here.

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Quality streets and 20s plenty

Sustrans has just launched a helpful new campaign to improve the quality of the street environment. This encourages councils to focus local transport budgets on improving streets for people and introduce 20mph speed limits. Read more here

The spread of 20mph zones is developing a real momentum and has been supported by the recent evaluation of the pioneering scheme in Portsmouth which introduced the limit without traffic calming measures. This concludes that the scheme has reduced road casualties and average speeds and garnered widespread support. Read more here.

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Tackling clone High Streets

Efforts to keep High Streets vital and alive have had mixed success in recent months. Useful guidance has come from an unusual quarter - the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - with a healthcheck intended to help give an early warning if your High Street is at risk. Read it here. However, the longstanding campaign to protect Sheringham in Norfolk from an out of town Tesco has been lost (see more here) and permission has also just been granted for a major store outside Kings Lynn.

Many civic societies fed into the new report from the New Economics Foundation (nef), originators of the "clone town" idea, which shows 64% of towns are or are on the verge of being clone towns in terms of the number of chain stores - see the details here. To turn the tide nef is undertaking a series of workshops and events encouraging people to reimagine their High Street - see more here. It is also working to dispel the myths put round by some supermarkets such as here.

The London Mayor is seeking extra powers to control the loss of local shops very much along the lines of the changes promoted by Civic Voice to the planning system. Read more here

Meantime the Improvement and Development Agency - which supports local government to share experience and knowledge - is promoting 100 ways to help the High Street with lots of useful examples. View them here

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£65 charge for A-board advertising

Many civic societies are encouraging more sensitive use of A-board advertising in High Streets to reduce street clutter and may be interested in Kent County Council's recent decision to levy a £65 charge for a permit - see here

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High Speed rail goes north

The Government has confirmed its intention to provide the investment needed for HS2 and favours the "Y" option for the route north of Birmingham - with the line going to both Leeds and Manchester and the North West - see more information here

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has visited much of the route and met local groups and communities. He made an important speech on HS2 setting out the strategic arguments and addressing the criticisms which can be read here. Transport Minister Theresa Villiers also spoke at a lively lobby event in Parliament and you can read what she said here

Civic societies in Kent were heavily involved in the debates over the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1) and secured important changes to reduce its impact. A visit is being organised for Spring 2011, starting in Ashford, Kent for all civic societies interested in learning more. It will include an opportunity to meet and debate with experts involved in the discussion over HS1 and civic society volunteers who campaigned for changes. It will also offer the chance to experience the only High Speed commuter line in the country from St Pancras to Ashford which takes just 38 minutes and return from Ebbsfleet in under 20 minutes. Please let us know if you would like more information about the High Speed Rail visit - info@civicvoice.org.uk.

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Getting more people involved in planning

Increasingly innovative ways of engaging more people in planning are being developed by local councils. Why not ask what yours is doing.

A recent example is spoof video from East Devon District Council which can be viewed here and an animated film from Tower Hamlets which can be viewed here

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New development management regulations

The Government has introduced new regulations for managing planning applications which rename and reorder some of the existing regulations and make some minor changes to address incomplete development and appeal rights on minor changes to planning permissions. Read more here

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Urban design guru lecture online

Rob Cowan has an enviable reputation in urban design circles and is author of the famous Dictionary of urbanism. Be inspired by the film of his recent Urban Design Group lecture examining the language of urban design here

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Pioneering film maker puts spotlight on urban design

Gary Hustwit has developed a strong reputation for his insightful films turning design into a cinematic experience. Following hard on the heels of films looking at the graphic environment and the manufacturing environment comes Urbanized which is due to air in 2011. See more here

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Conservation

Council conservation staff drops below 1,000

Local councils employ only 1,086 full time equivalent staff on conservation and archaeology across the whole of England. This stark fact has been revealed in a survey by English Heritage here which also shows the numbers have dropped by 6% in barely more than a year. This figure dates from August and so at the current rate of loss the figure has already fallen below one thousand - a shocking figure to champion the whole of history in local government across England.

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Heritage Counts 2010

The annual review of the state of the historic environment has been published by English Heritage. This includes information on the importance of the civic movement and has a focus on some new data on the economic value of heritage this year. More information, including links to the regional reports can be viewed here The national report can be seen here and English Heritage is looking for feedback via a survey here

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A new Arts and Crafts movement?

William Morris is famous for saying "Have nothing in your home that is neither beautiful nor useful" and many in the civic movement might argue this is true of our public spaces too. Skills Minister John Hayes MP has been quick to emphasise the new Government's commitment to craft skills and made a thoughtful speech to the RSA here in which he recognises its importance to the beauty of public spaces.

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Getting buildings listed online

It is now possible to request a building to be listed online as part of an overhaul of English Heritage systems. Anyone can request a listing so take a look at the new online facility here

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Tree preservation overhaul

The various regulations governing Tree Preservation Orders are being simplified into a single document which can be seen here

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SAVE buildings at risk

SAVE Britain's Heritage needs your help! This influential conservation group, set up in 1975 by a group of journalists, historians, architects and planners to campaign publicly for endangered historic buildings is currently researching for its annual Buildings at Risk register.

SAVE is interested in hearing about Grade II listed and/or unlisted vacant buildings of historical or architectural note, which are at risk from dereliction/decay/vandalism and in need of a new use and users (they don't necessarily need to be for sale). It also wants to hear about Grade I and II* listed buildings at risk which are vacant and for sale. Please send in pictures (300 dpi minimum) as a building cannot feature in the catalogue without a picture. The deadline is early January. Please see www.savebritainsheritage.org.uk or email Rhiannon.tracy@savebritainsheritage.org.ukfor more details.

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Vernacular place names

Communities across the country give places names which are local to them and not widely recognised. These informal names have a real value but aren't recognised by official maps and other information systems. Enter http://yourplacenames.com - a new website where you can record the informal names you know and have them recognised as part of a national project run by Cardiff University with the support of the Ordnance Survey

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Research, reports and campaigns

Tackling the impact of passive drinking

Civic Voice has joined with the Open All Hours? network of civic societies and residents groups and the Institute of Alcohol Studies to campaign for changes to the laws on alcohol licensing. The blight on town and city centres from lax licensing and anti-social behaviour is all too visible and we want the impact of this "passive drinking" to be properly recognised and addressed. The Home Office is making changes to the laws which we have largely welcomed and are looking to strengthen.

Learn more and join up to our campaign here

Read our joint press release and summary statement here

Register with the Open All Hours? network if you want to share experience with other civic societies and make an impact on licensing laws by contacting its Chairman Matthew Bennett on matthewbennett27@btinternet.com

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Community management of land and buildings

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has produced a helpful report exploring the growing trend for community groups to take on management of land and buildings. This is set to grow as local councils and other public bodies shed assets. Read more here and look at this separate video for getting people more involved here

There is also a useful new report from the Development Trusts Association and think tank ResPublica here

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Events and civic society workshops

Investing in heritage

Civic Voice is supporting the conference on investing in heritage buildings being organised by the building preservation trusts and heritage professionals in Glasgow on 18-20 November.

Get more information here

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Whose place is it anyway?

7th December London

A interesting half day event on communities role in strengthening places is being organised by RUDI and chaired by Civic Voice's Chair, Paula Ridley, on 7 December in central London.

Civic Voice has managed to secure several free places for civic society members. If you would be interested in attending, please email info@civicvoice.org.uk

For more information visit the RUDI website www.rudi.net

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Civic Day campaign workshops

Come along to one of the free three hour Civic Day workshops to meet the Civic Day Team, network with other groups getting involved, share your thoughts and learn how to make your Civic Day activity the best it can be!

  • Newcastle - November 17 (1-4)
  • Birmingham - November 26 - (2-5)
  • Ashford - December 11 (10.30-1)
  • Hampshire - January 26 (1-4)
If you would be interested in attending or would like more information, please email info@civicvoice.org.uk

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Street Pride campaign workshops

Civic Voice's Street Pride campaign to rid streets of clutter was recently endorsed by the Coalition Government. Find out what you can do, including a hands on street audit at one of our workshops.

  • Nottingham - November 27, 2010 (10-4)
  • Liverpool - January 20, 2011 (10-1)
If you would be interested in attending or would like more information, please email info@civicvoice.org.uk

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High Speed Rail visit

Civic societies in Kent were heavily involved in the debates over the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1) and secured important changes to reduce its impact. A guided visit is being organised in Spring 2011 (provisionally March) by Civic Voice and the Kent Federation of Amenity Societies starting from Ashford, Kent for all civic societies interested in learning more. It will include an opportunity to visit key sites on HS1 and to meet and debate with experts involved and civic society volunteers who campaigned for changes. It will also offer the chance to experience the only existing High Speed line in the country from St Pancras to Ashford which takes just 38 minutes, returning from Ebbsfleet in just 17 minutes. We hope to be able to cover some of the costs of this event.

If you would be interested in attending or would like more information, please email info@civicvoice.org.uk

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Whitehall Watch

Party leaders fight over local ground

Spending review

Nick Hurd MP meeting

Government and Politics

The Big Tree Plant

New planning laws about to be revealed

Local Economic Partnerships

Anxiety over disposal of RDA assets

Taking control of council budgets

Nature's capital

Planning and Transport

Street Pride gains momentum

Quality streets and 20s plenty

Tackling clone High Streets

£65 charge for A-board advertising

High Speed rail goes north

Getting more people involved in planning

New development management regulations

Urban design guru lecture online

Pioneering film maker puts spotlight on urban design

Conservation

Council conservation staff drops below 1,000

Heritage Counts 2010

A new Arts and Crafts movement?

Getting buildings listed online

Tree preservation overhaul

SAVE buildings at risk

Vernacular place names

Research, reports and campaigns

Tackling the impact of passive drinking

Community management of land and buildings

Events and civic society workshops

Investing in Heritage

Whose place is it anyway

Civic Day workshops

Street clutter workshops

High Speed Rail visit

Key Links

The Heritage Alliance

Public Realm advice for civic societies

Community Sector Coalition

The Planning Portal

Tescopoly - the website for supermarket campaigners

Permitted Development


Mark Addison Ceramic Tiler

Marketing Zone

Meeting House Kennels

My Computer Services

NCS Property Maintenance

Jack Poulton & Sons Ltd

Premier Payroll

Riverside Taxis

SJS Plumbing & Heating

S P Saban

Touch Of Glamour

Traceys Travel

A Cut Above

Attend2health

B&M Installations

Brooklands Design