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Civic Matters Start Civic Soc Initiative Logo
Issue No. 3 October 2009
In this issue
Prince of Wales backs Street Pride campaign
Heritage Counts 2009
Portsmouth Society named as "heritage heroes"
PPS 15: Planning for the Historic Environment
SAVE campaign for threatened historic buildings
Tories hint at "radically different agenda" for heritage
Infrastructure Planning Commission launched
Lobbying MPs locally
Buildings Matter - the RIBA manifesto
Cutting 10% of emissions in 2010
Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's tenth anniversary
City of Culture 2013
Research confirms sash windows are energy efficient
Unlocking local history
Listing success for Ripon Civic Society
People need to be given more control
Audit Commission criticises obsession with new housing
Local Development Frameworks in disarray
Twenty is plenty - new study shows 20mph limit works
Garden land grab opposed
Guidance set to pave way for heritage-led masterplanning
Environmental Law Foundation Conference
Initiative Liaison
Useful Resources
Key Links
Upcoming Events
Civic Matters - Printable Version

In this third issue of Civic Matters you will find a diverse range of topics including a response by the Civic Society Initiative to PPS15, the launch of Heritage Counts 2009, and the Civic Society Initiative campaign to reduce street clutter. There are useful resources we have come across in the past month, including a new page on our website dedicated to highlighing different civic society activities. There is also news of the Tories' views on heritage and the launch of the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

We are pleased to alert you to the campaign by SAVE on next year's Building at Risk register requesting civic societies from across England to alert them to any 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. Lobbying your local MP or councillor is a vital ingredient to success in any campaign you manage so we bring your attention to some helpful advice and a success by Hartford Civic Society.

As ever, we are keen to hear from you about Civic Matters so please don't forget to visit
www.civicsocietyinitiative.org.uk and use the discussion forum or email me ian.harvey@civicsocietyinitiative.org.uk
Ian Harvey
Prince of Wales backs Street Pride campaign PrinceofWalees
The Prince of Wales is backing our campaign for civic societies to save the country from street clutter.
The Civic Society Initiative will be running the Street Pride campaign to help rid streets of unnecessary clutter and create streets that local communities can be proud of. Street Pride responds directly to the enthusiasm expressed by civic societies during the recent open forum series and helps build on the excellent campaigns already undertaken in Stamford, Oxford, Salisbury, Alnwick, Bath, Wakefield, Clifton and elsewhere.

Prince Charles told the Civic Societies National Convention in Blackpool: "Out of adversity you now have an opportunity to build something even stronger - a powerful community movement which can address the challenges of a fast-changing world and remain a steadfast champion of the fabric and character of our nation's cities, towns and villages."
Heritage Counts 2009 HeritageCounts2009
Heritage Counts 2009, the annual report on the state of the historic environment, has been published by English Heritage on behalf of the whole heritage sector. It is full of useful information and deserves to be well read by civic societies. It includes a review of looks at the key changes across the sector for the year.
English Heritage has also published the results of new research into the link between living in a historic area and how content and connected we feel to that place. This shows that living in an area with more historic buildings has an impact - along with being interested in the built environment - in strengthening people's sense of place. It also demonstrates the value of a lively local interest in the historic environment, such as is provided by civic societies. A strong sense of place is very widely seen to help people's well-being and also to be important for the social cohesion of communities. In this way the research gives robust evidence of social benefits fostered by the historic built environment that should be valuable evidence for all civic societies championing its role.
The research shows that: ·
  • the historic environment has a significant and positive relationship to sense of place
  • adults who live in more historic areas are likely to have a stronger sense of place, other relevant factors being equal
  • both young people and adults who are more interested in the historic environment are more likely to have a stronger sense of place, all other factors being equal adults and young people who cite a local building or monument as special are likely to have a stronger sense of place, other things being equal.
The report also looks at the impact the recession has had on the historic built environment has has identified that the recession :
  • has driven down the volume of applications for listed building, conservation area and scheduled monument consents,
  • seen decisions on planning applications of all kinds falling by 18 per cent since 2007/08.
  • seen a lower reduction in listed building and monument consents and for conservation area consents these were down by only 10 per cent and three per cent respectively.
English Heritage speculates this was because "in the current climate, individuals and companies are more likely to modify existing buildings and structures than take on new building projects".
Regional reports have also been produced for each part of England which can be read here and there is a video summary of Heritage Counts 2009 here
Click here to read the full Heritage Counts report and click here to read English Heritage's research.

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Portsmouth Society named as "heritage heroes"

Britain's heritage leaders gathered at an event in London and answered questions from a wide ranging audience on a range of topics from funding to planning to volunteering at a Heritage Question Time which co-incided with Heritage Counts 2009. Hosted by English Heritage's new Chair Baroness Andrews - a supporter of the civic society movement - the panel included Heritage Minister Margaret Hodge MP; Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund; Anthea Case, Chair of Heritage Link; Tom Dyckhoff, journalist and broadcaster and Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust.
Tom Dyckhoff named his two "personal heritage heroes" as Roger James and Celia Clark from the Portsmouth Society as local volunteers who have campaigned tirelessly for many years to make Portsmouth a place to be proud of.
A podcast of the whole event is available here

Tom Dyckhoff has also been busy lately exploring changing attitudes towards the past in post-war Britain in his BBC series Saving Britain's Past. It tells the story of how our feelings about our history have developed, what those shifts tell us about ourselves and how they've shaped who we are. In the first episode, Tom visited Bath and makes several references to the excellent work of Bath Preservation Trust while episode 4 reviews a national civic society success - the campaign to Save Covent Garden. There is more information here and the series can be viewed on BBC i-player.
To view this series click here
PPS 15: Planning for the Historic Environment HistoricEnvironment
The revised Planning Policy Statement 15 on heritage is set to be a key document for civic societies. It will provide the framework for planning decisions for years to come and so it is vital that it is worded effectively. The Civic Society Initiative has been liaising with heritage and other bodies and made a strongly worded response to the Government. This can be accessed here. This response complements those being made by individual civic societies and is informed by feedback civic societies from Leicester to London who have shared their their extensive practical experience. It focuses on the key strategic issues which are welcomed or give rise to concern.
Overall, there is a high level of disquiet about the draft PPS15. While some aspects can be welcomed the general view is that the document:
  • takes an unduly narrow perspective on the public benefit provided by the historic environment
  • will create confusion and uncertainty through the introduction of a new approach and terminology which departs from the current legislation, is unduly theoretical and academic in its approach, and demands a level of skills and resources in local government which is lacking.
Thank you all for your thoughts and contributions over recent weeks.
You can read our full response here If your own society responded to PPS 15, please email us a copy of your response to ian.harvey@civicsocietyinitiative.org.uk

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SAVE campaign for threatened historic buildings SAVE
SAVE 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 their 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 do get in touch with SAVE about suitable buildings you may have seen in your local area or on travels throughout England and Wales.

Buildings feature online and around 100 new entries will be chosen for inclusion in our annual catalogue with the aim of inspiring and empowering people to take a more active role in protecting and cherishing their historic environment.

Please send in pictures (300 dpi minimum) if you can. A good photograph is worth a thousand words and SAVE cannot feature a building in the catalogue without a picture.

You can contact SAVE here
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Tories hint at "radically different agenda" for heritage Tories
Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt made a keynote speech on heritage at the Globe Theatre in London setting out the Conservative's views on some of the key issues. The centre piece of the speech was announcement of a Museums and Heritage Bill if they are successful at the next General Election. This will take forward the key aspects of the heritage legislation recently postponed by the Government. Jeremy Hunt also outlined plans to merge the Heritage Lottery Fund and the grant making responsibilities of English Heritage with a view to making administrative savings. This will inevitably be controversial, not least given HLF's responsibilities include the natural environment, museums and intangible heritage which is not covered by English Heritage. In response to a question from Tony Burton, Director, Civic Society Initiative he emphasised the importance of giving more responsibility to local people in shaping heritage decisions. Unsurprisingly, he was sanguine about the likelihood of tax changes such as the removal of VAT from the restoration of buildings.

A full copy of Jeremy Hunt's speech can be seen here
Infrastructure Planning Commission launched IPC

The new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has been launched - this will decide on proposals for major projects such as nuclear power stations, transmission lines, roads and wind power developments. It will work within the framework of seven new National Policy Statements about to be launched in draft by the Government. The IPC's views will be final - unlike the current approach which results in recommendations to the Secretary of State. Establishing the Commission has been hugely contentious because of the fear of a weakening of local community input.

Responding to a question from Tony Burton at the launch, Planning Minister John Healey MP urged local communities to raise issues with their MPs as new Select Committee arrangements will be used to review whether the draft National Policy Statements are fit for purpose.

The IPC is going out of its way to show a friendly face to local people and to be transparent in its operations. It is claiming to be "Independeent, impartial and inclusive". Notes of all meetings will be published on its website and Chairman Sir Michael Pitt says "The bottom line is that the IPC will not accept any application, where it considers that the consultation process has been unsatisfactory or the community's concerns have not been addressed". It will be worth civic societies holding the IPC to account on this.

Details of the first projects it will consider were announced at the launch - they include nuclear power stations and associated power lines at Hinkley Point (Somerset) and Sizewell (Suffolk), a major wind power development off the Lincolnshire coast at Triton Knoll and alterations to the A2070 in Kent. Over 50 projects are in the pipeline.

There is more information
Lobbying MPs locally LobbyingMps
In research that should helpful to civic societies voluntary sector think-tank nfpSynergy surveyed 150 MPs and 100 peers and found that while over half of MPs (54 per cent) said the most influential lobbying technique was holding face-to-face meetings with them at Westminster, the next three most influential methods were constituency-based, with constituency correspondence (39 per cent), constituency events (37 per cent) and constituency business (36 per cent) being the most important.

But only 14 per cent of MPs said that constituency business was being frequently used and only nine per cent said the same for constituency events. Civic societies could learn from the success of the Hartford Civic Society who managed to persuade Mike Hall MP to present a petition on the floor of the House on behalf of residents of Hartford in Northwich. The petition was collected by the Hartford Civic Society and contains more than 800 names. Mike has been fighting the development of the proposed slip road at Bradburns Lane, Hartford along with Hartford Civic Society and the Borough Conservation Manager. He has asked the Government to intervene and take action to prevent the construction of this slip road.
NewproposalsonregionBuildings Matter - the RIBA manifesto

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has unveiled its manifesto for architecture. Designed to reinforce the vote-winning potential of sound architectural policies, the document also challenges the current and potential future Government to understand that good design, and an improved planning system, is vital to the health and sustainability of our communities.

The RIBA manifesto calls for:
  • 4 million homes to be retrofitted within the lifetime of the next parliament.
  • The introduction of smart energy meters in every building and the publication of carbon bills by energy companies.
  • Minimum design standards to be introduced for all public buildings including post-occupancy evaluation.
  • The same minimum space, design and environmental standards to apply to all new homes, whether they are privately or publicly funded.
  • More support for local authorities to encourage good spaces and places.

The RIBA manifesto can be downloaded here

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Cutting 10% of emissions in 2010 BradfordCivicTrust
The 10:10 campaign asks businesses, organisations and individuals to pledge to cut their CO2 emissions and thereby get enough critical mass support to pressurise the Government to commit the country to similar action and to get serious about climate change.
Since its start in September, the 10:10 campaign has picked up loads of supporters, including many in Parliament and has pledges from the entire Tory shadow and Labour cabinets. More than 35,000 people, 1,200 businesses, and 850 schools and organisations have joined fifty-one councils in signing up to 10:10 to help meet the overall goal of an 80% reduction in the UK's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Being part of a campaign like this is likely to raise the profile of your civic society and show to the public that global issues can be dealt with by local solutions.

More information is available here
Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's tenth anniversary
CABE - the Government's adviser on architecture and the built environment - has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. This included publication of new research showing that nearly nine out of ten people say that better quality buildings and public spaces improve their quality of life and it has appeal across the political spectrum. This should provide useful lobbying support for civic societies and details can be found here

The celebrations were addressed by Government Minister Shahid Malik and he called for stronger community involvement - "we need to put the public and community at the centre of place making. Too often the public are marginalised, labelled as 'nimbys'. However, we know that places and buildings work best where citizens and service users are involved". His full speech can be seen here

City of Culture 2013

The Government has announced that no fewer than 29 cities are in the running for the title of City of Culture 2013. The winning city will be announced in Spring 2010 and is sure to be a focus of cultural events and activity which will be of interest to civic societies. See if your city is on the shortlist and think about getting involved in the campaign.

Further information here
Research confirms sash windows are energy efficient
It is a longstanding cause of concern that sash windows are being pulled out from many buildings on the grounds that uPVC replacements are needed to bring the building up to new energy standards. Helpful new research from English Heritage rebuffs this claim and shows that even the simplest repair and basic improvements will bring significant reduction of draughts and heat loss, and that using a combination of these methods will upgrade a window to meet Building Regulations targets.

More information here
Unlocking local history
There are clues to our past and its untold stories everywhere we turn and it often falls to civic societies to piece the tales together. A recent shining example is in Reading where the Reading Civic Society has opened the window on a fascinating tale of warfare, migration and the essential decency of humanity. St Mary the Virgin Church sits in the heart of Reading and is passed by thousands every day. On one outer wall is a neglected memorial plaque to Laurenthes Braag a Danish merchant who was held prisoner in Reading and died there in 1808. He was one of some 200 Danish prisoners of war held in Reading during the brief war with Denmark and granted amnesty in October 1809. 200 years on Reading Civic Society raised over £1,300 to restore the plaque and held a rededication ceremony. But the Civic Society did more than this. It unearthed new archives that tell a fascinating tale of how the Danish prisoners of war - known as the Gentleman Danes - were embraced by the local community and found descendants in Denmark who were able to attend along with representatives from the Danish embassy, Reading mayor and other dignitaries. The event was topped off by an organ recital of music of the time and guarded by members of a re-enactment society who represented the 3rd East Kent Regiment whose Colonel in Chief today is HM Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. It was a wonderful example of the role of a civic society and was well covered in the local newspapers. What untold story lies lurking in your area?

For further information and a video
click here
Listing success for Ripon Civic Society
Ripon Civic Society's campaign to secure Grade II listing for an Edwardian cab shelter has successfully seen off an appeal by the local authority against its listed status. The Civic Society gave the shelter to Ripon City Council over a decade ago only to see fears over its maintenance costs result in the appeal against listing.

More information is available here
People need to be given more control

The results of the Place survey undertaken by the Government confirms a majority of people satisfied with their local services but unaware of how to get involved in shaping local decision. Only 3 or 4% of people have actually got involved in shaping local authority decision making. Community Secretary, John Denham MP said "local government can be strengthened further, by giving citizens a bigger role in shaping the places where they live and the public services they use"

More information is available

Audit Commission criticises obsession with new housing

A new report from the Audit Commission suggests councils focus too much on building new homes and should pay more attention to improving existing housing in their area. 94% are focused on new and affordable housing targets whereas less than one third prioritise targets relating to their existing housing stock, such as bringing empty properties back into use, despite the financial savings, environmental improvements and social benefits of doing so. This should be helpful support when addressing the problems of overdevelopment in some parts of the country

More information is available

Local Development Frameworks in disarray

A survey of local authority planners reveals slow progress in implementing the promised Local Development Frameworks. Fewer than 20% of local planning authorities have yet completed their Core Strategy and respondents referred to the resource-hungry 'LDF beast', with the leading reason for delay cited as a lack of resources (68%), followed by changes in Government policy/guidance (56%), synchronising with regional policy (38%), and acting on Government Office advice (34%). 97% said that the LDF system did not result in a quicker process for plan-making.

Further information is available here

The Planning Inspectorate has also published a lessons learned report on Local Development Frameworks which is available here

Twenty is plenty - new study shows 20mph limit works

20mph speed limits have tended to be introduced on a selective basis but trial studies of the impact of a blanket approach to all streets in Portsmouth are providing helpful results. They show a fall in average speeds on all 20mph roads and average speeds on those roads where previously the mean speed was above 24 mph dropping by 7mph. There is growing expectation of new positive approach to the use of 20mph speed limits from the Department for Transport next year.

More information is available
Garden land grab opposed
Swindon Borough Council has told homeowners who fenced off public land to increase their garden sizes that they cannot keep the plots. Seven households in Barra Close, Highworth, have been told by the planning committee to restore 5,000 square feet of land to public space or face legal action. This is a problem across the country and civic societies may find Swindon's committee report of value

More information is available here
Guidance set to pave way for heritage-led masterplanning
The Homes and Communities Agency and English Heritage have launched their first joint 'How to' Guide outlining a new development-led approach to masterplanning, which advocates assessing the historic character of a site right at the earliest stages of redevelopment. The Guide, Capitalising on the inherited landscape - an introduction to historic characterisation for masterplanning, is the product of an innovative joint pilot project between the two agencies.

Further information
Environmental Law Foundation Conference, 10th November 2009
The Environmental Law Foundation is delighted to announce a conference that will discuss the Sustainable Communities Act 2007. This conference will be debating the act since the inception one year ago and looking in detail at the difference it has made on issues such as public participation and empowerment.
Confirmed speakers are:-
  • Steve Shaw of Local Works
  • Ed Wallace - acting Head of Engagement at the London Borough of Camden and
  • Meryvn Kohler - Help the Aged, and public participation for older people
The event will be held on the afternoon of the 10th November 2009, 2pm to 5pm at the Camden Centre, off Euston Road, London. For ELF members, it will be £5.00 entry, £10.00 for non members.
More information is available at
emma@elflaw.org or on 020 7404 1030
Initiative Liaison BradfordCivicTrust
We are keeping in touch with a number of networks and working groups to ensure the voice of civic societies continues to be heard. In the last few weeks this has included former Civic Trust volunteer Michael Hammerson and/or Tony Burton participating in the National Planning Forum, Joint Committee of National Amenity Societies and working groups discussing the new draft PPS15 on the historic environment.
If you would like further information then please get in touch on 0151 708 9920 or here
Useful Resources Usefulresouces
Key Links KeyLinks
Set up in 2002, Heritage Link promotes the role of the voluntary movement in the heritage sector
News and information from central and local government at
Public Realm advice for civic societies
The Planning Portal - your one-stop-shop for planning information online
Upcoming Events

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