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Civic Matters Start Civic Soc Initiative Logo
Issue No. 4 December 2009
Returntohome
There is a lot packed into this issue of Civic Matters. You can pick and choose the articles that interest you by clicking on the relevant contents below to get straight to the items of interest.
Government and politicsgovernmentandpoliticsheading
Politicians search for civic vote
Politicians search for civic vote politicianssearchforcivicvote
The central political importance of civic society has been demonstrated recently in important speeches and announcements by David Cameron and Gordon Brown.

David Cameron's Hugo Young lecture on 10 November placed a "new focus on empowering and enabling individuals, families and communities to take control of their lives so we create the avenues through which responsibility and opportunity can develop" and pledged the creation of a smarter state which avoided the problems of big government. Integral to this is the creation of a "big society" with extra powers transferred to neighbourhoods and extra help to enable people to take action locally - "This, then, is our new role for the state. Galvanising, catalysing, prompting, encouraging and agitating for community engagement and social renewal....We need more community activism, and more community activists." He calls for civil servants to become "civic servants...engaging with social entrepreneurs and civic institutions who can agitate and encourage social action" and for a strengthening of "civic institutions".

In a similar vein the Prime Minister published Putting the frontline first on 7 December as a keynote White Paper on the role of Government and communities. The document uses the word "civic" no fewer than 43 times and the first identified action is to "strengthen the role of citizens and civic society" .

The language from both leaders is in the familiar and arcane political-speak that lacks definition and clarity but the opportunity is clear. The role played by civic societies in debating and shaping the future of the local places where we all live and work is increasingly central to political priorities and we have rarely had an opportunity to take more advantage of it.

Meanwhile, all political parties have been criticised by the New Economics Foundation in a report suggesting reforms to devolve power from central government to councils and communities are doomed to fail because politicians "don't understand localism" and the debate around localism is too narrow.

Citizenship Survey resultscitizenshipsurvey
The Department for Communities & Local Government has published the latest national statistics in the Citizenship Survey. Statistics from the Citizenship Survey for England and Wales include data covering a range of issues including community cohesion, empowerment, values, racial and religious prejudice and discrimination, volunteering and charitable giving.
Key statistics from the release include:
  • The proportion of people who think they can influence decisions at local and national level has shown a small but significant decline over the past eight years - from 44% down to 39%.
  • On the other hand the sense of belonging to your locality seems to be on the up. 76% of people felt they belonged stronly to their neighbourhood in the latest report, an increase from 2003 (70%)
  • 43% of adults said they had volunteered formally at least once in the previous 12 months, compared with 41% in 2008/09.
Making Localism Delivermakinglocalismdeliver
Localism is the political buzzword of 2009 and a wide variety of organisations are thinking about what it might mean. One offer is from the British Property Federation (BPF) which is the trade body for a large number of the UK's largest property firms. Its new report, Making Localism Deliver, is encouraging a view that localism embraces bonus payments to local authorities accommodating new houses and commercial property in their area. The bonus payments, which would be made by central Government, would match council tax and business rates collected from new developments for six years. The proposal is that there would be no requirement for the authorities to reserve the bonus payments for any specific purpose and the funds will not be ring-fenced. It is an argument sure to provoke debate.
New tools for petitionslocaldemocracypetitions
Among other changes the new Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 places a series of new obligations on councils to promote democracy. This includes a duty to provide an e-petition facility and to respond to petitions. You may want to give the new duties a test and there is an example from Heston of using a petition to seek extra protection for a conservation area in an article below. If your civic society mobilises enough people then the council must provide an answer to your cause. By building up an email database will ensure that at the click of a button you can get people supporting your campaigns. A number of civic societies have already used electronic petitioning on their own sites to support campaigns, including Ripon Civic Society and Leicester Civic Society
"Quality streets" central to Government's action plan for quality places qualitystreest
The Government has followed up its World Class Places policy statement with a more detailed action plan. This is the most comprehensive statement yet of the value of place, streets and the public realm and the Government's ambitions for its future. It is a good source of supportive quotes to use in local campaining. Among its seven key objectives are
  • encouraging local civic leaders and local government to prioritise quality of place. Actions include improving support and training on quality of place for civic leaders and planning committee members
  • putting the public and community at the centre of place-shaping. Actions include promoting and funding more user engagement in the design of new public buildings.
  • strengthening quality of place skills, knowledge and capacity. Actions include strengthening the Government's offer to local authorities, public services and developers
The Conservative's indicated they would change tack if elected; dismissing the report as "lots of meaningless phrases that are aspirational....You can't do this through a top-down approach. You have got to foster a sense of pride and place from street level"
torieslifthtelid
Tories lift the lid on new planning proposals

Shadow Planning Minister Bob Neill MP has shared the proposals expected in a Conservative Party green paper in January on the planning system with the Civic Society Initiative. Speaking at the National Planning Forum he stressed the importance of a stronger community voice and the need to look beyond local authorities when it comes to planning matters - "There is something called community and it is more than the local council". He highlighted the following:
  • Abolition of the current regional structures which "lack democratic legitimacy and natural coherence" and support for clusters of local authorities working together on spatial planning and economic development issues, including at a county level
  • Simplification of the Local Development Framework to be more like the previous Local Plan - with more opportunities for public involvement
  • A move away from planning for housing driven by housing numbers combined with financial incentives for local authorities from increased council tax returns when development takes place
  • Further streamlining of the national Planning Policy Statements to produce a "national planning framework" for the first time, in conjunction with the National Policy Statements being prepared for major infrastructure
  • Merging the newly formed Infrastructure Planning Commission into the Planning Inspectorate and ensuring Ministers take the final decisions on major developments
  • Continuing support for partnership working through Local and Multiple Area Agreements
Responding to a question from the Civic Society Initiative's Tony Burton, Bob Neill stressed that there would be specific measures to increase community engagement in local planning and when dealing with major planning applications. The Planning Green Paper will be reviewed in a future issue of Civic Matters.
National planning policy statements nationalplanningpolicystatements

Planning Aid has released a series of short leaflets which summarise the seven draft national policy statements now out for consultation by the Government. They aim to help people understand what each statement covers and explain the new process. There are also a series of consultation events which may interest civic society volunteers.

Planning Aid will be offering independent advice to individuals and groups who cannot afford professional fees on how they can have their say in the new planning process for major infrastructure.
The draft national policy statements will form the basis of the first planning applications to go to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), the new body set up by the government to speed up the planning process. It started work on 1 October and will begin considering applications from 1 March 2010.

The leaflets are available here covering issues from power stations to ports and pylons along with details of the consultation events.
"Arcadia" scheme rejected in Ealing arcadiascheme

A "landmark tower" proposed in Ealing, west London has been rejected by Communities Secretary John Denham despite support from CABE and the local authority. In an important decision for other places he judged it failed to "preserve and enhance the character and setting" of the two conservation areas affected and a Grade ll-listed church. He concluded that the scheme's "dominant and overbearing impact would seriously detract from the distinctiveness and identity of Ealing town centre and the Haven Green area".

A statement issued by Ealing Civic Society read: "Naturally we are delighted with the Secretary of State's decision.

"Both the Secretary of State and the Inspector agreed with English Heritage and the Civic Society that the proposed development was out of keeping with the scale and character of Ealing Town Centre, particularly its listed building and Haven Green.

"We will need to study the decision and Inspector's report in detail but it shows all our efforts in opposing the application and appearing at the planning inquiry were fully justified.

"We are not against the principal of re-development of the Arcadia site but any new scheme has to be more appropriate to the character of Ealing so it can still be called 'The Queen of the Suburbs'.

"We are prepared to work with all the interested parties to ensure this can be achieved."

The decision letter contains helpful insights which might be used by civic societies in other parts of the country.

Read the decision letter here

Household renewables to be freed from planning control householdrenewables

Planning Minister John Healey has announced plans to extend permitted development rights to a range of domestic renewable development schemes, including solar panels, wind turbines, air and ground source heat pumps and biomass flues. This is part of the wider Government strategy for renewable energy and is likely to cause some concern.

Sensitive locations such as conservation areas are likely to be exempt from the proposals. A member of the High Wycombe Society has produced a two page summary explaining the recent changes in regard to wind turbines. Read the summary here under "Wind Turbines"
Further information is available here
Government rethink on heritage planning mooted highprofilecmapaign
A high profile campaign in the Sunday Telegraph highlighting inadequacies in the Government's proposed review of planning policy on heritage (PPS15) has led to a public rethink by Planning Minister John Healey. Healey told the Sunday Telegraph 'To put it beyond doubt, there is no question of downgrading the protection of historic buildings. The current language in the planning policy statement is not clear enough. We will redraft it to make clear that the protection of heritage buildings will not be reduced.' It remains to be seen what lies behind the commitment.

A copy of the article can be read here

Return to start of Planning news
cabe
Cabe valedictory shares "delight" in creating new places
Departing CABE Chair Sir John Sorrell made an impassioned speech in November on the importance of good architecture and design "in an age of anxiety". He focused on the opportunity presented by the current economic climate for "revolutions not patching", the need to fight against standardisation and enter a new "era of delight".

"I believe that great architecture is about our quality of life. It is about buildings and places that combine utility, longevity and delight. All three. We are very clearly at a turning point. There are choices to be made. I think the financial crisis of 1825 is instructive. It suggests to me that one of our primary concerns should be to avoid a return to business as usual and the development norms that prevailed two years ago. Design and beauty are beginning to infuse the popular imagination in this country once more, and we must build on the progress made with public building, and not squander the investment already made. I have argued tonight for a change of direction and a shift in attitude and values. And for a public sector epitomised by strength of character and sticking to what you believe in: values that CABE holds dear. So this is a call for more exuberance, not less. I know that architects are optimists. And architecture is about problem solving. It is also about reappraisal. Something the profession must consider for itself, if it wants to lead us out of an age of anxiety, into an era of delight.

The speech can be read here
Heritage's low status confirmed in new Government statistics lowstatus
The declining priority of heritage when compared to other Government priorities in its home Department for Culture, Media and Sport is confirmed in new information revealed in a series of Parliamentary Written Answers. These show that between 1997/8 and 2008/9 spending on arts has risen from £196m to £436m; on sport from £50m to £216m and on heritage from £182m to just £222m. When the impact of inflation is taken into account spending on heritage has fallen over this period. The share of DCMS's salaries being spent on heritage staff has reduced from 10% to 5% over the same period and the share of total expenditure on heritage issues from 45% to 29%.
More information is available here, here and here
Return to start of Planning news
Planners do not talk in plain English plainenglish
Planners have been warned that they are failing to get their message across in clear, simple terms in framing their core strategies. A report published by CABE claims that many documents are too wordy and written in heavy legal language.
The study aims to provide practical advice on investing core strategies with a strategic vision and a sense of direction. For its research, a CABE panel viewed more than 50 core strategies. But worryingly for planners, the report complains that plain English is missing from the documents the agency has read so far. The report claims that many documents are too wordy and written in heavy legal language.

To read the full report click here
Research, reports and campaignsResearchreports
Heritage Link launches new manifesto and name heritagelink
Loyd Grossman was announced as the new Chairman of Heritage Link in early December and promptly renamed it as Heritage Alliance and launched a new manifesto aimed at shaping the political priorities in advance of the 2010 General Election. Heritage Link also hosted a national debate with Heritage Minister Margaret Hodge MP, Shadow Minister Ed Vaizey MP and the Liberal Democrats' Richard Younger-Ross MP. None of the spokespeople had a coherent response to a question from the Civic Society Initiative's Tony Burton about the lack of resources and skills needed by local authorities to deliver "localism" but it elicited strong support from Richard Younger-Ross for the role played by civic societies in shaping debate.
Heritage Link's new strategy can be seen here
From grey to green - major new CABE campaignfromgreytogreen
The latest campaign by the Government's architecture and design watchdog CABE promotes the need for more investment in green spaces and for it to be given the same priority as grey infrastructure like roads and sewerage systems. It includes research showing a 0.5% switch in funding from grey to green infrastructure would more than double the amount of investment. CABE is highlighting the benefits of investing in more green infrastructure and also the need for more systematic information on what already exists. The campaign also calls for more attention to be given to ensuring local authorities and others have the skills necessary to provide the green places of the future.

More information on CABE's campaign is available
here
More eco towns proposedmoreecotowns
Despite the controversy over the earlier proposals, Planning Minister John Healey MP is extending the eco towns program and has announced four more schemes and emerging ideas in nine local authorities. The focus is turning to redesigning existing schemes at Shoreham Harbour in Sussex and Northstowe in Cambridgeshire and looking at ideas in the Leeds, Cornwall and Sheffield areas and near Lincoln, Coventry, Yeovil and Taunton. There is a new emphasis on urban extensions rather than freestanding new settlements.
Read more here
The future of urban transport futureofurbantransport
The Cabinet Office Strategy Unit, Department for Transport and a number of other Government Departments have worked together in recent months to consider how transport can best support the success of our urban areas. The future of urban transport offers a vision for the future of urban transport that envisages enhanced mobility through a wider choice of journey, reduced congestion, better health and enjoyable urban spaces. While aspirational the report does provide support for many of the ideas being promoted by local civic societies, including on Street Pride.
Read the full report here
Councils control only 5% of local spendingcouncilscontrol
The lack of control councils have over public money spent in their area has been laid bare by new research produced by a flagship government efficiency programme. The Total Place programme has found that while public bodies spend £7,000 per person on local services such as health, education and care for the elderly, only £350 of that is controlled by local politicians. This means only 5% of public money spent in local areas is controlled by local councils.
Public prefers traditional buildings, publicprefertraditionalbuildingssuggests poll

The Traditional Architecture Group has rallied to support Robert Adam after he launched a broadside against the Stirling Prize for favouring modernist buildings.
A poll showed 1,042 respondents pictures of the facades of two contemporary buildings - a visual arts centre in Shoreditch, by Adjaye Associates, and Kings Place, a glass office and arts building in King's Cross that is partly occupied by the Guardian, by Dixon Jones - and two traditionally designed buildings - an office block by Robert Adam on Jermyn Street in London and a building in Berlin. Respondents were asked which they would most like to see built near their homes and in overwhelming support for the traditional facade building, some 77% of people selected the traditional designs.
Return to start of Research, reports and campaigns
Victorian Society lists decaying landmarks victorianlist
The top 10 most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales have been named by the Victorian Society.
The list, nominated by campaigners and the public following an appeal from the Society, includes Oldham's decaying Grade II listed town hall, a Grade II* listed fortified barracks on the Welsh coast and a Grade II* listed hotel in the West Midlands.
Oldham Civic Society has been campaigning for several years to save the Town Hall and you can read more about its work here
Civic societies in action civicsocietiesinaction
A greener Bedford Park bedfordpark
The idea of creating a more energy-efficient community is something that fits well with the philosophy of the creators and early residents of Bedford Park, west London. The intent of this guidance note, produced as part of the Bedford Park Society's programme "Greening Bedford Park", is to provide advice specific to Bedford Park houses, including how to improve heating and ventilation efficiency; insulation of windows, roofs and walls and reducing energy wastage through leakage; water conservation; waste management; and an assessment of new technologies such as wind generation, heat pumps and solar panels.
Return to start of Civic societies in action
Civic societies campaign for conservation areascivicsocietiescampaignconservatin
Civic societies around the country are picking up the campaign for conservation areas following the release of information by English Heritage in June that one in seven are "at risk". One focus for a number of campaigns has been to encourage local authorities to issue an "Article 4 Direction" - this is a planning measure which withdraws the permitted development rights that allow small alterations to be made without submitting a planning application. This can help prevent damage to boundary wall or the appearance of house fronts, among other things.

The campaign for Heston's Conservation Area has developed a petition intended to encourage action by the London Borough of Hounslow which can be viewed
here. Barnsley Civic Trust held a public meeting to debate and discuss Conservation Areas in the headquarters of the National Union of Miners. This was chaired by the Civic Society Initiative's Tony Burton and included the local Conservation Officer and is leading to pressure for an Article 4 Direction to be introduced.
While in the London Borough of Camden the local authority is pressing for Article 4 Directions in Belsize, Hampstead and Swiss Cottage "to arrest the removal and unsympathetic replacement of traditional historic features (windows, doors, roofs, front gardens)". Further information is available on a pioneering online forum set up by the local authority conservation team
here and on the website here
merseysidecivicsociety Merseyside Civic Society campaign to turn street into conservation area

One of Liverpool's most prominent streets should be designated as a special conservation area, according to Merseyside Civic Socety.

The Society is concerned that, following the relocation of Rapid Hardware to the former George Henry Lee building, in Williamson Square, the "architectural unity of this fine Liverpool street" will be destroyed. Dr Peter Brown, chairman of the Merseyside Civic Society, said: "Its designation as a Conservation Area would mean that, in future, special care must be given as far as future development is concerned. New buildings and alterations to those existing must fit in with the existing character".
Preserve Lady Anne's Hotel stanneshotel
St Martins Residents Association and Stamford Civic Society are fighting to preserve the Georgian Grade II and Grade II* Listed Buildings that make up the Lady Anne's Hotel in Stamford. You can see more about the campaign at www.preserveladyannes.co.uk where you can also sign the online petition there, ahead of the public inquiry due to take place in February.
The Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies campaign against rail cuts foresthill
The Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society have joined forces with seven other groups to campaign against cuts to train services between Charing Cross and London Bridge and the downgrading of existing services.

The groups have run a hard-hitting campaign with articles in local newspapers, including the Evening Standard, all-party motions from councillors at Lewisham Council and letters from the Lewisham mayor and the local MP to Government ministers and the train companies. They have involved other groups further down the line from Honor Oak Park, Brockley and the Telegraph Hill Society and now have over 3,000 signatures on a "no-cuts" petition.
A description on how to manage a similar campaign can be found here as prepared by the Forest Hill Society.
skegness
Skegness Civic Society say "Don't railroad us over station house"
Skegness Rail Station, an old Victorian train station is being threated with demolition after Network Rail announced that it was looking into selling the whole site for redevelopment. The redevelopment would include new passenger facilities with retail and commercial buildings.

This idea has caused much controversy locally and Skegness Civic Society is leading the way in the campaign to prevent yet another landmark of local significance being lost with more than 1,000 signatures being handed to Mayor Councillor Pat Phillips at a town council meeting.

Chairman of the Society "Steve Kirk said "We need a full debate on the issue to see what the majority of the townspeople want".
Read more about this campaign here
stalbans
St Albans Civic Society tell inquiry "railfreight will create urban sprawl"
The former airfield where Helioslough wants to build a railfreight terminal plays a crucial role in the Green Belt protecting St Albans from encroaching urban development, the chairman of St Albans Civic Society has told an inquiry. Peter Trevelyan said: "If this appeal goes ahead many thousands of people will see that something of great value has been lost. St Albans will appear to the train passenger to be joined with Radlett and London in one continuous urban sprawl."

St Albans Civic Society has opposed the railfreight development in the Green Belt for a long time and has run a successful campaign opposing the scheme including publishing posters, highlighting issues in the local media, creating a website and getting more members of the community involved.

Read about the campaign here and a background article produced by Peter Trevelyan, St Albans Civic Society

sheffieldcivictrust
Sheffield Civic Tust says station barrier refusal "a victory for democracy"
Local campaigners who fought for 20 months to prevent ticket barriers being installed at Sheffield train station are celebrating after councillors threw out the plans.
The six members of the city planning board unanimously voted to reject the scheme after receiving nearly 1,250 objections - and criticised the station operator for pursuing the plans despite such overwhelming opposition.
Architect Simon Gedye, chair of Sheffield Civic Trust, told the board the barriers would ruin "a fine example of Victorian public architecture, used by a huge number of people each day as the gateway to our city".

He praised the "special quality of the glass roof and the stone detailing" and said the plans would be an architectural "setback".
nestoncivicsociety Neston Civic Society adopts a train station
Neston Civic Society adopted Neston station in December 2006, under the Arriva Trains Wales initiative. Arriva Trains Wales "Adopt a Station" scheme aims to help improve links with local communities and customers living near unstaffed railway stations. Pat Hughes, a member of the committee has written an article on the background to this project.
Bournemouth Civic Society bournmeouth tests character
In the Summer of 2008 members of Bournemouth Civic Society, Ken Mantock Chairman and John Soane Built Environment Officer, met with Bournemouth Council's Planning Board to discuss how the Civic Society might further support the Council, primarily through the evolution of its Local Development Framework, create more locally responsive planning policies and accommodate the levels of development envisaged in the Regional Spatial Strategy. It was agreed that the Civic Society would commission and undertake a characterisation study in the East Boscombe and Pokesdown area of the town with a view to assessing the potential of the secondary retail areas and the adjoining residential communities for accepting further development. This has been done and is having a major influence on planning policies for the town.
You can read the full detailed characterisation study here
Saving Greenwich Park savinggreenwich
No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Events (NOGOE) is a community action group whose members believe Greenwich Park is not a suitable venue for the 2012 Olympic equestrian events. It is worried about the impact the Olympics will have on Greenwich Park and the local community. It also believes the Park will not provide a satisfactory experience for the competitors and spectators and is campaigning for the equestrian events to be moved to a more suitable venue.
More information on this campaign is available
here
Civic societies seeking advice civicsocietiesseekingadvice
Canterbury Society CanterburySociety
One of the issues that the Canterbury Society is concerned about is the very high level of student population in Canterbury. There are three universities in the city and a fourth is trying to get established at the moment.

The local resident population is about 40,000 and the student population about 37,000.

There are no specific policies in the Local Plan about the problems that arise from these numbers and as a civic society Canterbury is currently giving consideration to this in the LDF Consultation process.

It would be keen to talk to civic societies who have similar issues so that everyone can get in touch and share information.
You can contact the Canterbury Society's John Walker here
Wavertree Society wavertreesoc
The Wavertree Society would like to hear from any other civic societies that have been succesful in managing to persuade a local authority to review signal times at road crossings. A council report by in 2005 highlighted a local road junction as a major barrier for increasing footfall to local shops as well as being a danger for users. The society want to increase the crossing time available for users, instead of the current situation that favours cars and would be interested in hearing if any other society has been succesful in doing something similar. You can contact the Wavertree Society here
Return to start of Civic societies seeking advice
civicsocietiesappearinginnews
Civic societies in the news
Burton Civic Society greets Bargates plans
Plans to redevelop a derelict former shopping centre in Burton have been given a cautious thumbs-up by the townʼs civic society. Read more here
Halifax Civic Trust try to get building listed to save demolition
Halifax Civic Trust tried to persuade English Heritage to give a property listed status so that it could not be demolished without success. Read more here
Penrith ferry terminal is sunk
A major Cornish harbour development has been rejected yesterday - prompting jubilation from Penrith Civic Society and other campaigners. Read more here
Civic society needs new members or may face closure
Plympstock and District Civic Society make a desperate plea for new members. Read more here
Torbay Civic Society against housing plan
A campaign is under way by Torbay Civic Society to stop 185 houses from being built on a former gasworks site in Devon. Read more here
Useful Resources Usefulresouces
Key Links KeyLinks
Set up in 2002, Heritage Link promotes the role of the voluntary movement in the heritage sector
Public Realm advice for civic societies
The Planning Portal - your one-stop-shop for planning information online
Upcoming Events
The Civic Society Initiative has developed an online events calendar to share all civic society related events. Please click here to look at it and click here to submit your events.
And finally......
We wish all Civic Matters readers a very happy Christmas and if you are still scratching your head for that perfect present then why not give membership of the local civic society.
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