The current coronavirus lockdown has disrupted the work of civic societies, along with
almost everything else in our national life. However, the enforced hiatus in so many of our activities gives an opportunity for those of us involved in the civic movement to pause and reflect on how things might develop in the future. It already seems clear that the eventual outcome will not be “business as usual”. Our patterns of work, travel, shopping and leisure are likely to change on a permanent basis and this could have profound effects on the economy and development of our cities and towns.
Members of the Civic Voice Board have been working together to consider how Civic Voice can best help civic societies in these unprecedented times. As an important first step, we have produced and circulated a survey asking societies to let us know how they are coping and what their future priorities will be. We have had over 110 responses so far but we need more. We are aiming for a minimum of 200 responses. We plan to use the results to shape our future priorities and seek funding support to carry them out.
Here are some of the key findings from the first batch of studies:
- Despite having cancelled many events and meetings, most Civic Societies are continuing key functions during lockdown, including scrutinising planning decisions,nand many are making use of videoconferencing facilities.
- The vast majority of societies are confident of surviving the crisis, but around 20% of them think that the crisis may have a major impact on their future sustainability.
- Many societies are concerned that there will be a lack of proper scrutiny of planning applications and that resources for planning will be squeezed even further in future
- The key priorities for Civic Voice campaigning are seen as:
o Bringing new life to town and city centres
o Giving local communities more influence in planning decisions.
- The main types of support that societies would find useful are: developing IT and
social media skills; developing community engagement in planning; local
campaigning and profile raising skills.
Do you agree with these, or does your society have a different perspective and other
If your society has not yet responded, please try to do so by 3rd May at 5pm. The link to the survey is here.
We none of us know for certain what the long-term impact of this crisis will be but we need to be prepared for change. England’s need for a strong and active civic movement will be at least as great in the future as it has been in our past.