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Civic Matters Start Civic Soc Initiative Logo
Issue No. 1 August 2009
In This Issue
New planning guidance on heritage
Common Sense Regeneration - Bradford Civic Trust
World class places
Protection of World Heritage Sites
21st Century High Streets
Putting the "C" into the Homes and Communities Agency
Recognising character in areas of change
Energy and climate change
British Museum plans rejected
Planning Inspectorate Report
Planning Inspectorate Report
Planning and the Coast
Useful Resources
Upcoming Events
Civic Matters - Printable Version
Civic Matters will be a regular communication from the Civic Society Initiative which will help give you a single point of call on everything you need to know about the latest policy, research and announcements affecting the built and historic environment.
In this issue you can read about the long awaited new Planning Policy Statement on the historic environment that has just been published and is now out for consultation, and discover how a new document released by the Government, World Class Places, should prove useful for civic societies in lobbying and campaigning. Many civic societies are involved in town centre projects, so we are sure you will be encouraged to read how the British Retail Consortium's new report 21st Century High Streets, provides evidence for local civic society campaigns.
Civic Matters also consolidates some important Government announcements on its Energy and Climate Change Strategy for achieving the legally binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the UK by 80% by 2050. The Government has pledged to provide an extra £10m over the next two years to ensure the right skills and knowledge are available within the planning community at local and regional level.
We know that many civic societies are located near the coast. The Government has published a new draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS) on Development and coastal change. This includes specific support for the first time for temporary development, such as cafes and car parks, in areas of coastal retreat where the long term future of the coastline is at risk from the impact of climate change. We also draw your attention to a report by English Heritage and CABE that should help civic societies encourage your local authorities to think first about character in the planning process.
Although Civic Matters is packed with information from central government and national organisations, it is also an opportunity for us all to find out what is happening throughout the civic society movement. One exciting and influential project is Common Sense Regeneration, a book published by Bradford Civic Trust based on the views expressed by the public at a forum it hosted.

Many of you will have read the news about the British Museum extension plans being rejected, but did you know
Camden Civic Society was a leading voice in the campaign? We have also provided some useful links on how councils operate.

In the meantime as this is the first Civic Matters we would love to hear your feedback so the next issue can be even better.

NewplanningstatementNew planning guidance on heritage
The long awaited new Planning Policy Statement (PPS) on Planning for the Historic Environment has been published for consultation by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This sets the ground rules for development plans and decisions on all planning applications and is a "must read" document for all civic societies. Even in its draft form the new statement will have an important influence on planning decisions.
The new PPS15 replaces the old Planning Policy Guidance notes 15 (Planning and the Historic Environment) and 16 (Archaeology and Planning). It is a much slimmer policy document and is accompanied by guidance from English Heritage which is also available in draft.
Draft PPS15 contains some important new directions in planning policy for heritage. It is particularly important for its emphasis on the value of heritage which isn't protected by designations such as listed buildings, conservation areas and National Parks. This "integrated approach" allows for a new emphasis on the importance of local heritage and sense of place with planning decisions to be determined on the basis of the "significance" of the heritage in question, wherever it is located. The definition of heritage is broadly drawn and recognises that "Heritage assets with historic interest not only provide a material record of our nation's history, but can also provide an emotional meaning for communities derived from their collective experience of a place and can symbolise wider values such as faith and cultural identity".
The draft PPS also places great emphasis on the evidence available to judge significance of the historic environment and states that "Local authorities should ensure that they either maintain or have access to a historic environment record".
Importantly, the draft PPS takes a precautionary approach to development which might cause "material harm to or removal of significance in relation to a heritage asset" stating that local authorities should "not accept" this unless it is necessary to sustain the original use of the asset; or there is clear evidence that no viable use can be found in charitable or public ownership and it is impeding viable uses; or it can be demonstrated that there are wider social, economic or environmental benefits that will be provided by development. This amounts to a "presumption in favour of conservation" that is greater the more significant the heritage asset.
The draft PPS also recognises the important role to be played by local communities and states that "Local planning authorities should particularly seek the views of the local community where the evidence suggests that the asset may have a historic, archaeological, architectural or artistic significance to the local community that may not be fully understood from records or statutory consultees alone." This provides strong support for civic societies wishing to raise issues that are important to the local community but which might not otherwise be addressed, especially where evidence of this community support can be provided (perhaps in the form of a local survey or petition).
There are a number of unanswered questions which will need to be addressed if the final PPS is to be effective. The new approach based on defining the significance of heritage assets wherever they are to be found will demand more skilled and expert local authority staff at a time when many local authorities are shedding Conservation Officers. Similarly, local authorities have struggled for years to develop and maintain the historic environment records that will underpin the new approach. It is also unclear how the new PPS will integrate with transport and highway decisions which can be among the most damaging for heritage assets.
Your views matter
The Civic Society Initiative is liaising with other organisations in seeking to influence the final PPS and we would welcome feedback from civic societies on its perceived strengths and weaknesses. If we are to influence the final document then it would be particularly helpful to have examples or case studies which illustrate your concerns. We are also hoping to establish a small working group of civic society activists who are keen to help shape the final PPS. If you would like to join this virtual group (which will correspond by email) or otherwise have comments then please email Ian Harvey here
Details of the draft PPS15 Planning and the Historic Environment and the draft English Heritage practice guide can be downloaded here

BradfordCivicTrustCommon Sense Regeneration
The regeneration of Bradford has been a much discussed topic which has been the subject of the public's dislike, opposition and disappointment. Bradford Civic Society believe no real consultation has taken place and the public's comments have generally been ignored.

Common Sense Regeneration is largely based upon the views expressed at a public consultation event which Bradford Civic Society held in March 2009. The book is intended to provide some "common sense" alternatives to the schemes currently being promoted by Bradford Council and the regeneration authorities. Therefore copies have been sent to every member of Bradford Council, to Bradford's MPs and to other people of influence, including the
Bradford Telegraph.

Bradford Civic Society hope that you will find this book of interest and that you will support the proposals it contains. It may also contain ideas relevant to your own area and is a leading example of a civic society setting out its stall and promoting a positive future for its area rather than just waiting for planning applications to be submitted.
WorldclassplacesWorld Class Places
The publication of World class places - the Government's strategy for improving quality of place in May marked an important watershed in the level of official recognition for much of what the civic society movement stands for. Driven largely by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and with strong input from English Heritage the strategy is peppered with supportive and helpful quotes. These should prove useful for civic societies in lobbying and campaigning and in seeking to influence local planning and transport decisions. The strategy is particularly valuable for emphasising that it "would be a mistake" to allow the recession to distract from the importance of a good quality of place which "should not be seen as a luxury but as a vital element in our drive to make Britain a safer, healthier, prosperous, more inclusive and sustainable place."
The strategy is, inevitably, weaker on practical action than rousing rhetoric and the impending General Election is also likely to inhibit follow through. Nevertheless, this is the most coherent Government statement on "place" for years and should have an important place on every Civic Society bookshelf.

The strategy is also important for emphasising the need to change and adapt in the face of external forces. An ageing population, climate change and continuing demand for new development are just three important drivers of change. It also acknowledges the "need to do more to engage people in making decisions about where they live, and empower them to shape places for themselves. Local people know best what they want from their local area". This is a shot in the arm for the important role played by civic societies.

The strategy introduces a new Government vision - "We want to ensure that all places are designed and developed to provide everyone, including future generations, with a decent quality of life and fair chances" and seven objectives focused around improved leadership, encouraging local civic leaders, aligning Government policy with promoting quality of place, putting the community at the heart of place-shaping, raising design and sustainability standards for central government's own developments, encouraging higher standards for private sector development and strengthening skills and capacity.
There are four key "elements" identified for a high quality place:
  • Good range and mix of homes and amenities
  • Well designed and maintained buildings and spaces
  • Ample high quality green space and green infrastructure
  • Sensitive treatment of historic buildings and sites

This provides a helpful benchmark against which to judge what is going on in your area.

Worldclassplaces Protection of World Heritage Sites
The Government has published a new circular Protection of World Heritage Sites which summarises the policy and legislation affecting these places of "outstanding universal value to the whole of humanity".
There are 18 World Heritage Sites in England, including large parts of urban areas such as Bath and London. Until recently these sites had no additional protection in planning law but this has now been strengthened so that their outstanding importance is recognised in planning decisions. The Circular also gives support for the development of management plans for each site and confers protection on the settings of World Heritage Sites. The circular confirms the new provisions which mean that any development proposal on which English Heritage has an unresolved objection must be called-in by the Secretary of State and not determined by the local authority. This means that civic societies should keep English Heritage closely in touch with any concerns about new development.
Further information is available
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BritishRetail21st Century High Streets - A new vision for our town centres
The British Retail Consortium - the trade association for the retail industry - has published a report 21st century high streets on the fate of the High Street which puts character and local heritage centre stage in the fight back against economic recession. This should provide helpful evidence in support of local civic society campaigns to manage and improve heritage features and open spaces at the heart of our towns and cities. One of the key principles supported by the BRC is "Town centres need good design, making the most of heritage features or natural surroundings to create a unique sense of place. Then they must be very well maintained."

The primary demand is to help create "a unique sense of place" and the report identifies the importance of:
  • Making best use of existing heritage and natural features
  • Diversity in the range of shops and goods on offer
  • Strong marketing and good communications, including support for loyalty schemes

The report also identifies the importance of an attractive public realm with spaces that encourage people to mingle, effective lighting and signage, distinctive use of materials and appropriate street furniture.

Putting the "C" into the Homes and Communities Agency
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) was set up in December 2008 bringing together the Government's work on social housing development and regeneration. These had previously been undertaken by the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships. It is a very large organisation and is focused on working with local authorities to combine housing and regeneration in ways that facilitate growth, provide affordable homes, promote sustainability and renew run down areas. The HCA will be a major funder and influence on a large number of development and regeneration schemes of interest to civic societies.

The "Communities" strand of the Agency has had a low profile to date and so it is helpful to see publication of "For People and Places: our approach to Community Engagement" which sets out some clear principles to guide its approach. These may be useful in encouraging effective involvement of the civic society in discussions over housing and regeneration schemes near you.
Further information is available here
recognisingcharacterinareasRecognising character in areas of change
English Heritage has published a new report on the importance of assessing the character and identity in those parts of the country which are likely to see widespread demolition and change. The housing market renewal areas have been highly controversial ways of addressing decay and dereliction partly through widespread demolition.
This report, produced jointly with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), draws on examples from around the country to demonstrate the benefits of undertaking a townscape and heritage appraisal at the very beginning of the planning process. This enables the most important elements which contribute to the areas character to be recognised and built into the plans for the future. The report provides a useful tour of the issues and should be useful to civic societies seeking to encourage your local authority to think first about character in the planning process. Copies of Character and identity: Townscape and heritage appraisals in housing market renewal areas can be downloaded here
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EnergyandclimatechangeEnergy and climate change

The Government has made a bundle of announcements setting out its strategy for achieving the legally binding commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the UK by 80% by 2050. These include a transition plan to a low carbon economy, a renewable energy strategy, a low carbon transport plan and announcement of the go ahead for four eco-towns (from an original shortlist of 15).
The bulk of attention has focused on the extra costs to consumers of more expensive energy and the threats to the local environment from more renewable energy schemes, especially wind turbines. The RSPB, CPRE and National Trust issued a joint statement recognising the urgency of the need for action on climate change and backing the drive to generate 15 per cent of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2020 while protecting its natural and historical environment. All three organisations welcome the Government's proposal for a strategic approach to renewables planning and for extra investment in the planning system to cope with the expected rise in planning applications. The joint statement reads: "A renewable energy revolution in the UK is long overdue. We look forward to working with Government to ensure this takes place within the timescale needed to tackle climate change; that it happens in harmony with the natural and historic environment and respects sensitive landscapes; and that harnesses the support, skills and enthusiasm of local people and communities."
Read the full statement here

Land use planning has a key role in the Government's strategy, with regions to "set targets for renewable energy capacity in line with national targets or better where possible". The Government has pledged to provide an extra £10m over the next two years to ensure the right skills and knowledge are available within the planning community at local and regional level. Also promised is more support for local authorities dealing with larger planning applications for renewable or low-carbon energy projects. The drive for more renewable energy development is not intended to undermine national designations - "This strategy does not change existing environmental protections, such as the more stringent planning tests applicable to [renewable energy] sites with nationally recognised designations, including national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs)"
The Government will publish a new draft combined climate change planning policy statement (PPS) by the end of 2009.
BritishMuseumBritish Museum plans rejected
Proposals for a £130m modernist extension to the British Museum have been thrown out. Museum bosses wanted a five-storey building with three basement levels for a special exhibition gallery, conservation laboratories, offices and collection storage rooms.

The scheme, designed by Lord Rogers firm, was rejected by a majority of five votes to four at Camden Council's planning committee meeting. The rejection came despite the plans enjoying the support of English Heritage and being recommended for approval by Camden's own planning officers.
After a three-hour discussion and representations by experts on both sides, the committee decided the scheme was an "overdevelopment" and that its benefit in terms of additional exhibition space would be outweighed by damage to parts of the original museum.
The Camden Civic Society played a leading role in the campaign and the council's decision has delighted television presenter and conservation champion Griff Rhys Jones, who is president of the Camden Civic Society. Griff, said: "It is a huge relief. The proposed scheme would have harmed the great city that is London. We do not want to stand in the way of the museum expanding its exhibition spaces, but this design was too dominant. It would have overwhelmed the fantastic building and dwarfed it.".

Read more about this story in the Griff Rhys Jones' Blog
Planning Inspectorate Report

The Planning Inspectorate's 2009 Annual Report has been published and contains the usual range of interesting facts and information as well as a helpful summary of the Inspectorate's role. Copies are available here

The Planning Inspectorate has also published the latest statistics on planning appeals. Interestingly 34% of all appeals were allowed in 2008/9 which is almost the same as the 32% allowed in relation to conservation areas and listed buildings.
Publicity for planning applications

The Government is consulting on proposals to change the publicity requirements for planning applications. This is critical if civic societies and others are to learn of changes happening in the local area, especially where the local authority does not automatically notify the relevant civic society of planning applications.
There is provision under planning law for three types of publicity: by local advertisement, site notice and the serving of a notice on neighbours. Local planning authorities must also publish an up-to-date register of every application for planning permission in their area. This is usually held in the local planning authority's office and online. Information on planning
applications is provided online by 99 per cent of local authorities.

The main change proposed is to replace requirements to publicise applications in local newspapers with a requirement to make them available online for 21 days. This would be in addition to a site notice and/or notification of neighbours. There is an additional proposal to require the statutory period for displaying site notices for listed building and conservation area consent and for development affecting the setting of a listed building or the character or appearance of a conservation area to be 21 days.

The changes are being made following research which suggests relatively few people find out about applications through the local newspaper and publicity is better when local authorities have more freedom to choose the method. If you have strong views on these proposals and evidence to support them, then please let us know by the end of September. If these views are widely held then we will seek to influence the proposed changes.

You can read the consultation paper here
Planning and the Coast

The Government has published a new draft Planning Policy Statement (PPS) on Development and coastal change. This includes specific support for the first time for temporary development, such as cafes and car parks, in areas of coastal retreat where the long term future of the coastline is at risk from the impact of climate change. It will be accompanied by a companion guide to good practice when published. The key principles being proposed
  • to recognise the long-term nature and the inherent uncertainty in our understanding of coastal processes and use shoreline management plans as the basis for future planning .
  • to avoid inappropriate development in areas vulnerable to coastal change, but recognising that activities that require a coastal location, such as recreation and tourism, may provide economic benefit to communities. Where such wider sustainability benefits exist, these types of development may be permitted where the lifetime of the development can be managed within the time-frame of the expected coastal change impact
  • local planning authorities to define a 'coastal change management area'
  • regional spatial strategies and local development frameworks promote policies to assist the relocation of development affected by coastal change away from areas at risk
  • a partnership approach with other relevant agencies and bodies with an interest on the coast, such as the Environment Agency, Natural England, the National Trust and the proposed Marine Management Organisation

Copies of the draft PPS are available from CLG's website here

Useful Resources & Key Links
Key Links
News and information from central and local government at
The Planning Portal - your one-stop-shop for planning and building services online
Upcoming Events
The Civic Society Initiative have developed an online events calendar to share all civic society related events. Please click here to submit your events.
Civic Matters - Word Version

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