DCMS Historic England Review : Consultation deadline 9th May 2019

The Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) is conducting a tailored review of Historic England. Read more here.

This is the first review of Historic England to take place since the organisation was split into two separate, though related, bodies in 2015: an Arm’s Length Body operating under the name Historic England, and a charity called The English Heritage Trust (trading as English Heritage).

Government is seeking the views of people who work, or have an interest, in the heritage sector across the United Kingdom, including those who receive advice from Historic England and those who have applied for grant funding from Historic England. The civic movement is an absolutely key stakeholder in this consultation and we need all civic societies to respond.   Please note, on Government reviews such as this, numbers count. The more civic societies that can respond will inform the overall results of the survey, but will help show the impact of the civic movement.

There are two ways to respond to the consultation. You can either submit a Survey Monkey form and answer the questions or you can email albteam@culture.gov.uk  direct with the title Review of Historic England: Civic Society Response.

We have drafted a template response for civic societies (available here).

Our key messages to Government will be: 

  • There is a need for a national watchdog to advise the Government on the historic environment. Listed buildings, conservation areas and the wider historic environment would be under greater threat without Historic England.
  • Since we have lost 37% of conservation officers since 2007, the recommendations to engage more with communities and build local capacity is a sensible move and one we support
  • Historic England cannot do everything so the approach towards a ‘placemaking’ focus, with a greater focus on ‘conservation areas’ and ‘heritage high streets’ is greatly supported by the civic movement as it chimes well with our Big Conservation Conversation campaign

The closing date is 12 noon Thursday 9th May 2019. 

Please copy Civic Voice in to your response, or email us to let us know you have responded, at info@civicvoice.org.uk so that we can monitor the level of responses from the civic movement.

Will Civic Voice respond to help make the case for the importance of nation’s historic environment?

DCMS Historic England Review : Consultation deadline 9th May 2019

Shadow Planning Minister, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP and former Housing and Planning Minister, Nick Raynsford speak at Parliamentary meeting on public participation in the planning system


The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies met recently to discuss Public Participation in the Planning System. We use our Parliamentary meetings to bring MPs and key audiences in the sector together on issues that are impacting the civic society movement. Civic Voice is the only national organisation that speaks up nationally for the civic and conservation movement and campaigns on issues that cannot be changed locally.

Craig Mackinlay MP, Chair of the APPG for Civic Societies said: “We decided to invite the Shadow Planning Minister, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, to enable her to share further thoughts on the Labour Party Commission on planning reform and how they intend on putting the public at the heart of the planning system. We also asked Nick Raynsford to attend to share his thoughts on the Raynsford Review. We really enjoyed the discussion hearing the national challenges we face, but thinking about how we can ensure meaningful engagement with the public is at the heart of any future planning system. We will continue to work with MPs from all sides to ensure the work of civic societies through the planning system is heard.”

More information on the Labour Planning Commission is available here and read about the Raynsford Review here

Ahead of the Parliamentary meeting on public engagement in the planning system, Civic Voice has signed up to support the call to urge the United Nations to make 2020 the Year of Public Engagement. You can see more information here.

Shadow Planning Minister, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP and former Housing and Planning Minister, Nick Raynsford speak at Parliamentary meeting on public participation in the planning system

Civic Society Design Review? Is this how we develop meaningful engagement?

Midlands Network courtyard

Anyone that was at the Civic Voice conference will know that Joan Humble, Civic Voice Chair, said in her speech that Civic Voice encourages civic societies to learn from groups such as Leeds and Sheffield who regularly engage with architects and developers, encouraging them to present their proposals to the civic society for feedback. Joan highlighted that more civic societies should be trying to make this happen and establish community design reviews! Joan’s statement was in the context of the recent changes to the NPPF, and how can we achieve more meaningful engagement.
 “Applications that can demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement with the community should be looked on more favourably than those that cannot.” (para 128). (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/779764/NPPF_Feb_2019_web.pdf )
Taking forward Joan’s comments, many civic societies have responded to our Building Better survey and suggested further ways for Civic Voice to help formalise the role of communities in the planning system. We have developed one of the ideas suggested (below) and we would welcome feedback.

When the Civic Voice Regional Forum met in September, one of the key messages to the Civic Voice board was that Civic Voice should be highlighting as many examples as possible of “effective community engagement” and not recommending a single approach. We have an APPG for Civic Societies meeting now taking place on March 27th that will discuss, Public Participation in the Planning System.  We now need civic societies across England to suggest good examples of effective community engagement between developers and the community.

We know that many local Civic Society committees hold meetings  with developers and they, the committee, give their views on the proposed development. The Regional Forum believe that standardising a Civic Movement Design Review, building on from what civic societies already do, is an opportunity not to be missed for civic societies as it can be a positive way of engaging and influencing proposed new development for the better. Our ethos is to encourage the community, through groups such as civic societies, to proactively and positively engage with developers and their teams. Civic societies contributing to the planning process is a cost-effective and efficient way to facilitate community-led design.

The work of civic societies across the country is exactly what the country needs to deliver 3million+ homes. What we need now is to formalise the work of the civic movement so that we become more organised on planning and housing. We know that some societies are in need of support to develop skills and expertise to manage increasingly complex planning applications. We want to support civic societies, neighbourhood forum and other community groups to do this. We take the lessons and examples directly to Minister and the Government.

This appears to be a positive step in the right direction and something Civic Voice will be highlighting so that other communities can have examples of effective meaningful engagement.

Civic Society Design Review? Is this how we develop meaningful engagement?

Roundtable with Shadow Planning Minister

Joan Roberta and Craig

Following on from the APPG for Civic Societies Parliamentary meeting on Public Participation in the Planning System, we have been approached by the Shadow Planning Minister, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP to arrange a round-table with Civic Voice members. We will be inviting 12 individuals to a meeting in London to discuss the 2-3 changes Civic Voice members feel need to be made to put ‘Public Participation at the heart of the Planning System’. 

The meeting will be co-chaired by Chair of Civic Voice, Joan Humble and Shadow Planning Minister, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP.

The meeting will be in London in June and will only involve Civic Voice members. If you are interested in attending such a meeting, please email your details to info@civicvoice.org.uk. If you are interested in joining Civic Voice, get in touch! 

Please note, we will be ensuring that the meeting has a fair representative of Civic Voice members, by geography, size and gender so the final decision on attendees will be taken by Civic Voice’s Executive Director.

Roundtable with Shadow Planning Minister

Non-statutory consultee… is this the solution for civic societies?

In addition to the statutory consultees, local planning authorities should also consider whether there are compelling reasons to engage other consultees who – whilst not designated in law – are likely to have an interest in a proposed development. These are sometimes called non-statutory consultees.

Local planning authorities are encouraged to produce and publish a locally specific list of non-statutory consultees and should engage with non-statutory consultees to identify the types of developments within the local area in which they have an interest. This means that any formal consultation can be directed appropriately and unnecessary consultation avoided.

Joan Humble, Chair of Civic Voice and Blackpool Civic Trust said: “Blackpool Civic Trust isn’t just interested in the past. As a consultee on listed and locally listed buildings, and developments affecting conservation areas, the Trust plays a real role in regeneration and helps speed up decision making. Since becoming Chair of Civic Voice, I have visited many civic societies across England and I am surprised that so many civic societies are not consulted by their local authorities. However big or small, civic societies have expertise that can enhance their local built environment. The civic movement is the most numerous participant in the planning system so we want to hear how civic societies across England are ‘formally’ engaged with their local authority.”

We are interested in hearing back from civic societies to ascertain how formal/informal the relationship is with your local council as a non-statutory consultee. Please share thoughts at info@civicvoice.org.uk.

Non-statutory consultee… is this the solution for civic societies?

Civic Voice’s Sarah James delivers Building for Life 12 training


building for Life 12 is a tool for assessing the design quality of homes and neighbourhoods in England.  It is included in the new National Planning Policy Framework and responds to the Government’s commitment to build more homes, better homes and involve local communities in planning .

The questions are designed to help structure discussions between local communities, local planning authorities, developers and other stakeholders about proposed housing development.

Why should civic societies and community groups care about this?

Paragraph 129 of the National Planning Policy Framework states ‘Local planning authorities should ensure that they have access to, and make appropriate use of, tools and processes for assessing and improving the design of development. These include workshops to engage the local community, design advice and review arrangements, and assessment frameworks such as Building for Life’

If this is a tool that local authorities are being encouraged to use, Civic Voice’s Regional Forum believes it is important that civic societies gain a greater understanding of this too!

Do any other civic societies use this?

In a word, yes!

‘We feel that doing a formal assessment adds weight to our comments, being seen to be more than a collection of comments from a few (biased) individuals. It also leads us in a structured way to ask questions that we might not otherwise have thought of. We also keep a record so it’s easy if challenged to demonstrate where a comment came from.’ 
Phil Campbell, Cockermouth Civic Trust

BfL12 is also designed to help local planning authorities assess the quality of proposed and completed developments; it can be used for site-specific briefs and can also help to structure design codes and local design policies.

‘Effective local plan policies and/or masterplans, plus a capable housebuilder can deliver good design on every single site, especially if BfL12 is deployed effectively.’ 
Philip Barnes, Barratts Group Land & Planning Director

If you want a Civic Voice representative to visit your civic society to discuss Building for Life, let us know at info@civicvoice.org.uk.

Civic Voice’s Sarah James delivers Building for Life 12 training

The planning system is underperforming according to National Audit Office

Targets for new homes are likely to be missed by half of England’s local authorities, according to a damning assessment of the government’s housing strategy, while increasingly profitable building companies are getting away with paying less for infrastructure and more than half of councils have failed to draw up adequate plans to solve the housing crisis.

The National Audit Office (NAO) concludes that the planning system in England is “not working well” and says councils are struggling to negotiate successfully with developers, leaving swathes of the country vulnerable to either housing shortages or situations where the wrong homes are built in the wrong places. Since 2010 there has been an almost 40% real-terms cut in spending on planners, according to the public spending watchdog.

The NAO report follows claims from Conservative ministers that housebuilding is a top policy priority and that by the mid-2020s the rate will increase to 300,000 new homes a year. Between 2005-06 and 2017-18 the housebuilding rate has averaged 177,000 a year and the annual number has never exceeded 224,000.

While the number of completions has soared from around 124,000 in 2012 to 223,000 last year, the growth rate is tailing off and according to statistics we are still well below the 300,000 homes a year that the Government says we will need by the middle of the next decade. Meanwhile, house prices have rocketed, leaving a generation of young people struggling to come up with deposits in the tens of thousands needed to buy a home today. With the annual number of homes never exceeding 224,000 units you have to ask, how are we going to suddenly deliver 300,000 homes each year?Read the National Audit Office report here.

The planning system is underperforming according to National Audit Office