What do you do if a local authority has no conservation officer?

Blog by David Biggs, The Tamworth and District Civic Society (TDCS)

Following the announcement that the London Borough of Ealing decided to delete the role of conservation officer and in view of the Civic Voice campaign on conservation areas and officers, I thought you’d be interested in North Warwickshire Borough Council (NWBC) – part of whose geographical area comes within our remit in The Tamworth and District Civic Society – and the issue of unprotected heritage assets.

Because NWBC has no Conservation Officer, no Local Listing programme and no Locally-Listed Buildings whatsoever, and no Conservation Area Advisory Committee, its unprotected heritage assets are at real and constant danger of loss in the places within the borough without conservation areas.

Buildings like these are important and unique in their local context, but they are not going to meet the criteria set by Historic England for national listing. In an area without a Conservation Officer, Local Listing and a co-ordinated and comprehensive approach to conservation and heritage, unprotected old buildings can be picked off one-by-one by developers.

The historic character and identity of many of our towns, villages and streets are being cumulatively eroded, because no protection is afforded, and officers and councillors have little if any planning grounds to reject applications.  We wonder how many other civic societies experience the same issue and concern?  It seems clear from Civic Voice communications, that this is happening elsewhere, and so is a major national issue.

The state and future of our nation’s conservation areas is of deep concern, but the civic movement should also be very worried about our unprotected heritage assets that we can’t get nationally-listed, or locally-listed, or placed into conservation areas.

It is therefore pleasing to see Civic Voice focus this year’s national conference on asking: “How can we balance conservation and regeneration?  Tamworth hopes to attend, and we look forward to hearing from Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, RTPI and RIBA about the future of conservation departments and the impact on our everyday heritage. We will also be attending the Midlands Meeting before then, and will be interested  to discover the extent to which our concerns and experiences are shared by other civic societies across our region.

*On the point about Local Heritage Listing, Civic Voice earlier this year published a new guide (available here) along with a new national register highlighting those local authorities who manage a Local Heritage List. We are asking Civic Voice members to help us to keep this database updated.

 ** Civic Voice’s Sarah James says: “I think this makes a really good point: what do you do if a local authority has no conservation officer, as there is zero chance of ever getting a local list. The everyday heritage outside of conservation areas will be lost”.

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What do you do if a local authority has no conservation officer?

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