10 outstanding civic societies….. according to Civic Voice’s Sophie Mason

I have been working as the Finance and Administration Officer for Civic Voice for almost one year now! During that time, I have had the pleasure of engaging with some fantastic civic societies doing great work within their local community.

Whether it is bringing like-minded people together, campaigning on environmental issues, assessing local conservation areas at risk or opening their own heritage attractions, here are ten societies which have particularly inspired me the past year…

  • Southgate District Civic Voice

In June 2019, Southgate and District Civic Voice worked with the Civic Voice team to organise a mini charette event open to all in their community.

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The design charette was held in response to a proposed development which would have radically altered the landscape of their unique town and was borne out the frustration which many felt of not being listened to. The event enabled local residents to learn more about development in an unbiased environment and gave everyone the chance to feedback and feel listened to. The event attracted a diverse crowd, from young families to commuters to elderly residents and lead to an impressive boost in membership for the civic society. Southgate District Civic Voice inspired us all by how willing they were to work with us and try out new ideas.

  • Petersfield Civic Society

Another group which have done fantastic work in bringing communities together is the Petersfield Civic Society. Situated in rural Hampshire, Petersfield Civic Society realised the potential of bringing neighbouring societies together to learn from one another. The society is particularly dedicated to campaigning on environmental issues and they have affected real change in their town. Their hard work culminated in an event which bought around ten regional societies together, pooling their resources to address common issues which societies face and learning how best civic societies can work to combat climate change.

  • Spen Valley Civic Society

Continuing the theme of bringing communities together through the environment and placemaking, Spen Valley Civic Society must be commended for their Jo Cox Community Wood project. In response to the tragic murder of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox in 2016, the civic society decided to honour her memory by creating a woodland space for the whole community to enjoy. Spen Valley Civic Society were inspired by Jo’s belief that people have more in common than that which divides them and have used the wood as a way of bringing different groups together. Since 2019 they have planted over 1000 trees and have more exciting projects planned for 2020.

  • Birmingham Civic Society

Birmingham Civic Society have used their platform as a way of engaging with an underrepresented group in the civic movement; young people. The society have worked with local schools and universities to create a free citizenship module for the Key Stage 3 pupils which encourages them to become active citizens that contribute positively to Birmingham’s future. The programme culminates in the Next Generation Awards, which sees teens work together to research issues in their communities and develop schemes to address them. Previous winners have gone on to work with the civic society on key issues such as elderly isolation within the community and creating sensory spaces for local residents with additional needs.

  • Addingham celebrateAddingham Civic Society

Addingham Civic Society have also been pioneers in their response to how civic societies can work to combat the threat on climate change in their town. The society recognised the importance of community activity and raising awareness within the civic movement. Chair Jim Robinson gave a brilliant talk on the subject at the Larger Societies Meeting in Chester last year which inspired many other groups to coordinate their own green agenda. The civic society has also established their own environmental subgroup with its own website, social media and regular programme of activities.

  • Peckham Vision

New members Peckham Vision must also be commended on the way in which they have successfully engaged with young people in their local community. The society joined Civic Voice in 2019 after engaging with us on Twitter and we have been very impressed by their use of social media and digital press. Peckham Vision have curated a great Instagram page which showcases a variety of upcoming local events and vibrant photos of previous events. Currently only seventeen societies out of almost 225 Civic Voice members use Instagram, yet it is arguably the most popular and social media site for young people. Peckham Vision have one of the highest number of Instagram followers for a civic society. Having an appealing Instagram with diverse and welcoming photos is one of the best ways which societies can appeal to young people and attract a more diverse audience to their events.

  • Hunstanton and District Civic Society

In the past year, it has been incredibly inspiring to see a number of civic societies running and operating their own premises and local heritage attractions. The newest addition being Hunstanton and District Civic Society’s Hunstanton Heritage Centre. Hunstanton is a remote yet beautiful seaside town on the North Norfolk coast with a wealth of history and culture that the local society is helping to showcase. The Heritage Centre is staffed entirely by civic society volunteers and provides educational tours for schoolchildren and groups throughout the year, as well as opening for public admission. As the town of Hunstanton does not have a museum, the civic society have directly addressed this cultural deficit and provided a vital service for residents to discover more about the past and the fascinating town in which they live.

  • Weymouth Civic Society

Weymouth Civic Society must also be commended on their outstanding commitment to furthering the cultural and heritage attractions of their town. The civic society manages and operates not one, but two amazing heritage attractions: Tudor House and Northe Fort. Both premises are run entirely by volunteers and society members who provide guided tours, costumed interpretation and specialised educational visits for schoolchildren and groups, as well as general admission. Thanks to the hard work of the Civic Society, Weymouth Tudor House remains one of England’s best-preserved Tudor buildings. Northe Fort is one of the most remarkable historic military structures along the Jurassic Coast and Weymouth Civic Society have saved it from falling into disrepair and disuse.

  • Bewdley Civic Society

Conservation areas are an issue on which Civic VoMYNW3382ice is passionate about campaigning. Unfortunately, due to government cuts over the past decade and subsequent staffing shortages, many local authorities are unable maintain all the conservation areas within their borough to an acceptable standard and they often fall into disrepair. Civic societies therefore have a vital role to play is assessing and recording key information on local conservation areas and ensuring that they do not lose their status. Several proactive civic societies have established projects to combat this issue and Bewdley Civic Society have impressed us all with their dedication to conservation heritage within their town. The civic society worked together using the Civic Voice conservation area audit guide to assess their 105-acre local conservation area. It was wonderful to see the civic society making the most of their membership and utilising our resources! The audit was such a success that the committee are planning event to share their experiences with other civic societies looking to enhance their conservation areas.

  • City of Winchester Trust

The City of Winchester Trust have also been pioneering in their work on conservation areas and choose to work alongside Winchester City Council to address this issue facing their townscape. Council conservation officers helped to train a body of civic society volunteers to carry out onsite conservation area appraisals and collect key data from each of the towns many conservation areas at risk.  Too often civic societies are accused of being uncooperative and combative towards their local councils and this belief is not always unfounded. Societies such as The City of Winchester Trust who work together successfully with their local authority and maintain a cordial working relationship are actively challenging this stereotype and projecting a welcoming, modern image of the civic movement.


Next week, Sarah James will share her thoughts on 10 civic societies that are championing good design in the built environment….

10 outstanding civic societies….. according to Civic Voice’s Sophie Mason

Protected: Ensuring that Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have a mechanism for meaningful and effective community input

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Protected: Ensuring that Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have a mechanism for meaningful and effective community input

Oxford Civic Society looking for help with a member survey – can you help?

Oxford Civic Society last asked members what they thought of the Society some years ago and think it is about time to do it again, but what should they be asking?

Has your society or community group undertaken a survey of members to find out what they like, dislike and what to see improve? Do you have a set of questions that you would be prepared to share with Oxford? Would you be interested in comparing data if you are from a similar type of town?

If you are happy to share your experiences with Oxford Civic Society, please email info@oxcivicsoc.org.uk to help Oxford get a greater understanding of what members want.

If you have a problem/challenge that you think other civic societies may be able to help with, get in touch with Civic Voice at info@civicvoice.org.uk.


Oxford Civic Society looking for help with a member survey – can you help?

APPG for Civic Societies: How can we build better?

With the drive to deliver more homes across the country, there has come a loud call for those developments to also be of a high standard of design in order to deliver high quality, liveable and sustainable environments for residents.

Yet, with so much discussion recently about the quality of the nation’s housing, why do we seem to keep getting it wrong and seeing so much confrontation with communities?

The next meeting, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies on 17th March 2020, will feature two leading experts to debate the recommendations from two key reports:

  • Nicholas Boys Smith, Chair of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission will discuss the Commission’s findings. Read the report here.
  • Prof Matthew Carmona, Place Alliance, will share his thoughts on the recent design audit of 142 housing developments across England. Read the report here.
Register to attend the event here.

Ian Harvey said: “How we deliver quality housing is a genuine discussion that we should all be engaging in, but we shouldn’t confuse this with arguing over architectural styles. If Government is serious about responding to the Building Better, Building Beautiful report, they should be looking at rebalancing the power of the planning system and giving communities a much greater say at every stage of the system. I look forward to debating these issues with Matthew Carmona and Nicholas Boys Smith.” 

APPG for Civic Societies: How can we build better?

Civic Voice signs letter to support a new ‘national design unit’

Design quality unitCivic Voice – the national charity for the civic and conservation movement – this week signed a letter to the Secretary of State calling for an independent body to be set up to oversee national design standards. This letter follows quickly on from Civic Voice welcoming the final report from the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission Living in Beauty – published on 30th January 2020. Individuals signing the letter include the Chair of the Place Alliance and CEO of the Design Council.

The letter, available to read here welcomes the idea of an independent body to help oversee the recommendations from the Building Better Commission, however, we do not believe that this goes far enough. The ambition should be for a body that is longer term and authoritative, with the ability to reach across Government departments and its agencies, bring together and harness the energies of the wide range of professional, industry, campaigning and advocacy organisations and experts in this field, whilst influencing developers and local government and helping to give ordinary citizens and communities the confidence that design quality really matters.

Read the letter here.

Ian Harvey, Executive Director of Civic Voice, said: “If we want to avoid Living with Beauty becoming just another report to be left on the Government shelf, it is going to take effort and energy from organisations in the sector to come together on shared policy issues to campaign for change on the bigger issues. We need to continue the conversation about the value of good design. I was pleased to sign this letter calling for a national unit to oversee the quality of design. Some people may say that it is simply asking Government to re-establish CABE, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”

The recommendations from the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission will be debated at Civic Voice’s APPG meeting in March. Register to attend here.

Civic Voice signs letter to support a new ‘national design unit’

Help us to show examples of how we can build better!

Can we build beGoldsmith Norfolktter? Of course we can. Whether it is the schemes that are nominated for our Civic Voice Design Awards or local groups celebrating the best new housing in their area, the civic movement is supportive of new housing.

We want to tackle the perception that civic movement is a NIMBY movement. We want to highlight different examples as to how civic societies are celebrating and recognising high quality housing. It doesn’t have to be a national Civic Voice Design Award winner, but it must be something that the local civic society/community has highlighted through a local award.

We we will be highlighting lots of great case studies online at: www.civicvoicedesignawards.com as we build up a resource bank that we can all utilise.

Visit www.civicvoicedesignawards.com.

Our plan is to turn this into a publication and exhibition to launch at the Civic Voice conference in May 2020 but we need your help to do this. Please submit your examples and information to info@civicvoice.org.uk.

Furthermore, do you have a local design award? Are you celebrating the best new developments in your local area? Tell us and we will feature them in the next few months in a publication we are working on! Share the details at info@civicvoice.org.uk.

Help us to show examples of how we can build better!