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Civic Matters Start Civic Soc Initiative Logo
Issue No. 2 September 2009

In this issue
Conservatives clarify thinking on major infrastructure
Is your plan sound?...
New guarantees on affordable housing
New homes too small
Your place matters - official statistics!...
Clone town threat to High Streets confirmed
Streets at breaking point
New proposals on regional planning
Open Space Strategies
Street works to be better co-ordinated
Initiative Liaison
Useful Resources
Upcoming Events
Civic Matters - Printable Version

In this second issue of Civic Matters you will find a diverse range of issues including updates on the politics of major infrastructure, new arrangements for regional planning and Living Streets' campaign to reduce speed limits to 20mph in residential areas. There are useful resources we have come across in the past month, including a 40 page guide campaigning to Saving Open Space.

England's smallest house ever (Wavertree, Liverpool) measured 6ft wide and 14ft deep and had a family with 8 children living in it when it was erected around 1850, yet even our distant relations may be amazed at new research published by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) showing that today we still have too much new housing that is too small to meet the everyday needs of residents.

A lot of civic societies have been in touch telling us about your concerns for the economic vitality of your local high street due to national retailers squeezing independent shops. A report from the Urban Forum highlights that on average 80% of people have to leave their local area to get access to basic necessities. However, there is also positive news with a succesful campaign organised through Facebook that was able to stop Tesco from siting a new store in Liverpool
Finally, don't miss the useful resources section. This includes over 70 case studies from the Sustainable Development Commission and details of English Heritage's work on Heritage at Risk as well as a virtual guide to the Local Development Framework.

As ever, we are keen to hear from you about Civic Matters so please don't forget to visit
Ian Harvey
Conservatives clarify thinking on major infrastructures Conservativethinking

There has been considerable speculation about the future of the new Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) if there is a change of Government at the next General Election. The IPC has recently been established with a view to accelerating decisions over major infrastructure projects such as new airports, power stations and sea ports. It will work to new National Policy Statements which are currently being prepared by the Government and its decisions will be final, rather than the current arrangements where decisions are made by the Secretary of State. The creation of the IPC has been very controversial and is regarded by many as diminishing the democratic planning process. The Conservative's have previously indicated they would abolish the IPC. In a clarification of its plans energy spokesperson Charles Hendry MP has said that the IPC would become part of the Planning Inspectorate under a Conservative Government and final decisions would be made by the Secretary of State. It is also planning to have a debate in Parliament on the National Policy Statements.
Is your plan sound? isyourplansound
It is important that Local Development Frameworks are produced in accordance with the recently amended legislation and the Planning Inspectorate has published a simple guide which will enable you to check whether this is the case. It summarises what needs to be produced by law and also what is needed in preparation for a public examination of the plan. A series of questions helps test the soundness of the plan and could be used by civic societies concerned about the quality of what has been produced for its area.
More information is available here

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New guarantees on affordable housing Newguaranteesonaffordablehousing
In an important break with previous policy the Government has announced that it will now be possible to require new affordable housing to remain affordable for future residents in some part of the country. Previously it was always possible for buyers of shared ownership schemes to purchase their house over time - in a process known as "staircasing" - thereby meaning that further affordable housing needed to be built to ensure it was available to new generations. This should have the effect of reducing the demand to construct new housing by guaranteeing a supply of affordable housing in the existing stock. The new restrictions will apply in around 13,000 rural areas.
More information can be found here

New homes to small Newhomestoosmall
The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has published new research showing that too much new housing is too small to meet the everyday needs of residents. The survey of 2,500 private new homes revealed 44% of all households without enough space for small children to play safely in the kitchen while meals are being prepared, and 72% not having enough space for the three small bins required to recycle properly. 35% do not have the kitchen space for basic cooking appliances such as a toaster or a microwave. CABE is arguing local planning authorities need to establish better space standards since the private sector is not providing them. It should be remembered that with a sensible approach to design this can still mean new housing can be built at higher densities and to a good quality, thereby reducing pressure to develop open land.
More information can be found here
Your place matters - official statistics! yourplacematters
The Government has just updated the "Place Survey" - the official study into the 18 indicators which are judged to be most important to assess the quality of place. The latest research provides information for individual local authorities - how does your local authority compare? Where you are lagging behind then why not use these results to press your council for action?

As with all such research the statistics can be read in many ways - while 80% express satisfaction with their local area as a place to live, over 40% did not feel they belonged to their neighbourhood. More than 70% felt unable to influence decisions in their local area but 14% had been directly involved in some way. Over 40% are dissatisfied with the way litter is controlled and nearly a third with the management of green space.
You can find out more here
Clone town threat to High Streets confirmed Clonetownthreat
80% of people are having to travel outside their local community to get access to basic shops like butchers and greengrocers and local post offices are continuing to close at an alarming rate. These figures have been brought to light by new research from the Urban Forum - an important network of local community organisations, including civic societies. The report also calls for a more positive approach to bringing disused shops back into use and identifies dereliction and decay as a major source of public concern. Many civic socieities are combatting this problem by developing initiatives to help stimulate economic activity including The Heath and Hampstead Society. The report encourages community groups to play a more active role in shaping the Local Development Framework and not just responding to planning applications. Unfortunately the research confirms that too much planning is shrouded in technical and inaccessible language and more effort should be made to communicate in plain English if planning authorities are to move beyond consultations and tick box exercises to actively engage with the community. There is also sharp criticism of the consultation process run by many local authorities.
More information is available here
Streets at breaking point streetsatbreakingpoint1

In a stark message on its 80th anniversary the charity Living Streets has published new research showing how streets are losing their role as places to meet and children to play, accelerating the loss of contact between neighbours and a decline in community spirit. Almost half (49%) of children aged 5-10 never play out on their streets, a massive change from the freedom people now over 65 enjoyed when they were the same age. Living Streets is using this research to campaign for 20mph speed limits to be introduced as the norm in residential areas and promote "naked streets". The naked streets approach seeks to reduce the impact of cars by encouraging more shared use of road space with others, including pedestrians. This has been shown to have a much more significant impact on driver behaviour than physical interventions such as road humps and is safer for pedestrians too.
In response to this problem, Oxford Civic Society is encouraging people to look at ways of making permanent improvements to their streets to make them friendlier and safer - and apply pressure for council action through a now annual event Oxford Streets for People

More information on the Living Streets report is available here and information on Oxford Streets for People can be found here.
NewproposalsonregionNew proposals on regional planning

The Government is consulting on new arrangements for preparing regional strategies. This follows the decision to merge the regional spatial strategies with the economic strategies produced by Regional Development Agencies. There is no prescriptive model being put forward for the content of the new strategies but they will be expected to set out a regional vision for 15-20 years and identify key regional challenges. In practical terms this is where some of the most important decisions over housebuilding numbers, major retail and industrial development, new infrastructure and the overall pattern of new development will be made without being site specific. They will also need to address the implications of climate change and set out policies for environmental, wildlife and landscape protection. Local development frameworks will need to be compatible with the strategies so they set important ground rules for local planning decisions. The strategies will be drawn up jointly by a local authority Leaders Board and the Regional Development Agency. The new policy statement will replace the current Planning Policy Statement 11 on Regional Spatial Strategies when it is finalised. It is likely that the new spatial strategies will be harder to influence than the current ones and partnership working with other voluntary sector bodies is the most likely route to being effective. The stability of the new arrangements with a General Election due within the next 8 months is very uncertain. The current arrangements in London remain unchanged.

More information can be found here
Open Space Strategies OpenSpaceStrategies
There is growing recognition of the importance of open spaces as being essential to the quality of life and being integral to development plans and new development. To help promote this the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has been promoting the preparation of "open space strategies" by local government. It published best practice guidance earlier this year and has now produced a leaflet summarising their benefits. Having an open space strategy means that the thinking is built in from the start and also helps focus limited resources on the main priorities. Why not use CABE's arguments and support to lobby your own local authority for more action in this area?
More information is available here
Street works to be better co-ordinated BradfordCivicTrust
The age old problem of one contractor digging up the street just days after another has filled in their hole in the ground should be reduced by the publication of an updated Code for the Co-ordination of Street Works and Works for Road Purposes and Related Matters. The Code is more than a little complex and runs to 144 pages but in essence it seeks to match the needs of statutory undertakers - like gas and electricity companies - to provide services and the duties of local authorities to protect streets and meet the needs of street users. This is managed through a register with a view to ensuring an overview of competing needs and demands is taken.

More information is available here
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
The Planning Portal - your one-stop-shop for planning and building services online

Upcoming Events
Civic Trust South East - Guildford 26th September East of England Civic Societies -
King's Lynn, October 10th Civic Society National Convention, Blackpool 15th/16th October
London Forum AGM, October 20th, The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street

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.
Civic Matters - Word Version

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