Helen Kidman, shares her thoughts on brownfield registers and why civic societies should be keeping an eye on them

Idly watching the Parliament Channel last week, I saw the housing minister Dominic Raab speaking at a select committee meeting about Brownfield Sites. He explained that the Brownfield Land Register) Regulations 2017 required local planning authorities in England to prepare, maintain and publish registers of previously developed (brownfield) land by 31 December 2017. It was stated that some 90% of local authorities have now published a register of such sites. So I went on line and had a look at my local authority’s.

Brownfield land registers will provide up-to-date and consistent information on sites that local authorities consider to be appropriate for residential development having regard to the criteria set out in regulation 4 of the Town and Country Planning (Brownfield Land Register) Regulations 2017. Local planning authorities will be able to trigger a grant of permission in principle for residential development for sites in their registers where they follow the required procedures. Registers will be in two parts, Part 1 will comprise all brownfield sites appropriate for residential development and Part 2 those sites granted permission in principle. Registers should be published locally as open data and will provide transparent information about suitable and available sites.

The Local Plan for  my home area, Bradford, is at the critical stage with continuing arguments over housing numbers still going on. An examination of  the Strategic Housing Land Allocation Assessment (SHLAA) is to commence later this year. The Brownfield Sites Register is a useful document as it can highlight potential sites, some of which have been vacant for a long time which could be used for house building. There are hundreds of sites listed.  We shall be scrutinising the register and map carefully. It’s important that we use up brownfield sites before green field and green belt land.

A cursory glance at the register shows that a number of sites have already been discounted by planners. Additionally, in some cases, the site owner is not known or is not making their intentions clear.  The ownership, at least, should be in the public domain, via the Land Registry. Some sites have lapsed planning applications, sometimes for hundreds of homes.

 Other societies who have problems with housing numbers might find it useful to check out the Brownfield Site Registers in their areas and investigate what is happening to the sites listed.



Helen Kidman, shares her thoughts on brownfield registers and why civic societies should be keeping an eye on them

Elizabeth Allison, Former Chair of Sutton Coldfield Civic Society and Civic Voice Representative on our National Regional Forum shares her thoughts on piloting the Civic Voice Conservation Audit

Why Sutton Coldfield Civic Society are involved

In Sutton Coldfield, we have three conservation areas, including Sutton Coldfield High Street Conservation Area, which last had a management plan published in 2015. The area is not at risk, but as a society we do feel as though the increase in advertising and signage is gradually changing the character of the area. Sutton Coldfield Civic Society has long championed our local heritage and in 2010, we developed a Community Led Conservation Area appraisal, so we are always keen for the society to do its bit to protect local heritage.

As the West Midlands Representative on the Civic Voice Regional Forum I attend meetings at the Coffin Works, Birmingham to help contribute and advise Civic Voice on matters of concern across the country.  This group really does help shape what Civic Voice is doing and although we don’t agree on every issue, I do feel that we are shaping what Civic Voice is doing on a national level. The group also works well as a forum to hear from others across the country and to network.

It was during the December meeting of the Regional Forum other members of the group presented the latest findings from the Civic Voice Big Conservation Conversation campaign. This is a campaign to raise awareness of the loss of conservation staff in local government. It was through this research that societies had been feeding back to research team that the situation is much worse than the national picture painted. We were told than 20% of authorities do not have a conservation officer and nearly 1000 conservation areas are in these authorities. It really does make you worry about the future of conservation areas. Incidentally, it was disappointing to find that one of our local conservation areas, the Four Oaks estate, was listed with Birmingham instead of ourselves as the relevant Civic Society. If Birmingham Council provided this information, one has to wonder how much they do know about conservation areas in their area.

It was through the research of that societies have been feeding back that they wanted to get involved in the national campaign and highlight issues of concern. Nantwich Civic Society (read here) was highlighted as an example of a group who had been assessing the issues in the local area, without any training. It was clear from this that civic societies do want to get involved in assessing the local conservation area and play their part in taking action, but they don’t know where to start.

Alongside this, local authorities have also been saying to Karen that they want extra support, but they need to be given certainty that the information being provided from a community group on the condition of a conservation area is accurate, up to date and not biased. Helen and Karen suggested to us that using a “national audit” would give an authority the confidence that the community group are using the national tool and have been trained to a consistent national standard.

Based on this, Helen and Karen had recommended that some sort of “tool/audit” be developed that allows a group to “take action”, collects evidence of impact and provides useful information that an authority can use.

The idea of a Civic Voice Conservation Area Audit was born.

What is it?

The Conversation Area Audit is a way for a community to assess the condition of a conservation area. It is your “first steps” to managing the change in your conservation area.

The audit provides a simple framework to gain a snapshot of the key issues impacting on your conservation area at a point in time, which can then be used to support you in developing an action plan to address those issues.

The tool provides prompts for discussions, allowing you to consider all the issues impacting the area in a methodical manner. The tool will help you identify where the conservation area needs to change or improve its condition.

The tool is simple and consists of a series of questions which cover the common issues in a conservation area, as identified by Civic Voice and Historic England in a survey in 2016. When you answer the questions, you are then required to fill in a simple online form to help interpret the results.

Does it work?

Having had members who participated in the national Civic Voice campaign on war memorials, we volunteered our society to be one that road tests the next version of the tool.

I had arranged for Sarah James to visit Sutton Coldfield, but unfortunately, I had to cancel. I had thought this would hinder me from knowing how to present to colleagues, but after communicating with the CV office, they sent me the latest draft of the guidance to support the tool. Sarah James was on hand to answer all the questions we had so I could present the idea to our committee. We haven’t gone through any training yet to be able to use the tool fully, I think this might be required to ensure a certain standard of assessment.

In general the civic society committee thought the Civic Audit was a good idea and the idea of using the form as the basis for a National Civic Day project went down well.
The point was made that a few of the criteria might not be suitable in all circumstances, e.g. deciding whether or not UPVC windows had been installed could be difficult in Sutton Coldfield’s Four Oaks Conservation Area, where several of the Arts & Crafts style homes sit on very large plots, often behind hedges but we know that these are the issues that Civic Voice are looking for in the pilot. I think the plan is to ensure different versions exist and could be adjusted to suit the character of the area.

We agreed that by giving us a consistent methodology to follow, we know that we will have a stronger case to make to the local conservation officers.

Should others use it?

Would we recommend the tool to other groups? Yes, we would.

We recognise that we are part of the wider civic movement and know that we are stronger working together.

That is why I attend these national meetings. The more groups we can get using the tool, the more examples we will have of it working. If Civic Voice can then collate this evidence, we will get real examples of the issues impacting conservation areas. Civic Voice can then use this to lobby and campaign with Historic England and Government. 

My advice would be that if you need evidence to show your local authority what the key issues are in your town or you are a conservation officer looking to make the case for further funding? Why not join the Civic Voice Conservation Community & make the case for conservation areas? 


Civic Voice is encouraging people to look more closely at their local conservation area and to take action to ensure they are fit for purpose 50 years after the Civic Amenities Act came into force. This tool kit is aimed at helping anyone who wants to assess and record the condition of a conservation area. 

Get in touch with Civic Voice via info@civicvoice.org.uk and we will provide further information.

So why use it?

Your survey will help to

  • Identify whether the conservation area is in good condition or whether it needs any repairs/conservation
  • Understand what key issues need addressing locally?
  • Create a national database of the nation’s conservation areas.
  • Kickstart any action that’s needed to ensure the future of your local conservation area.
  • Civic Voice plan to hold monthly workshops in Birmingham where you can register to attend and meet other community groups, local authorities and policy makers who are also using the tool. 

So, by using the tool you can save yourself a lot of time and frustration in trying to get the local authority to support your work by using the Civic Voice Audit. By using the conservation audit tool, you are showing that you are committed to “doing the right thing” and having the appropriate training and will be supported by the Civic Voice name.

Elizabeth Allison, Former Chair of Sutton Coldfield Civic Society and Civic Voice Representative on our National Regional Forum shares her thoughts on piloting the Civic Voice Conservation Audit

What will you do for National Civic Day? Whitby Civic Society share some thoughts.

Civic Day is a national celebration of civic pride and is taking place on June 16 2018. We believe that the future of conservation areas can be positive. We believe we can put communities in control of conservation areas. We believe we can see more communities such as The Deal Society playing a central role in long term management of their local area. But we need your help. Research by Historic England, shows that only a small majority of those surveyed who live in a Conservation Area (56%) were aware that they actually live in one. This suggests a need to raise awareness. We need you to get involved and organise activities in conservation areas. We want you to celebrate and champion conservation areas.

In this regular feature, we will include ideas that are coming in from civic societies across England each week so you can see how other groups are celebrating where they live.

Whitby Civic Society wish to commemorate Civic Day by exhibiting the work carried out to log, survey and register all the War Memorials in Whitby Parish, particularly as 2018 is 100 years since the end of the First World War. The exhibition will use storyboards to tell the story of all war memorials, the need to conserve them, as well as involving local groups in bringing some of the stories to life via playlets and song. They will also be launching a self-guided walk leaflet of all Whitby’s war memorials.

This event will also be used to promote Whitby Conservation areas and the Whitby Civic Society’s new guide for Businesses to develop new or refurbished “Shop fronts”, including the award by the Town Mayor of Certificates of Excellence to deserving businesses in the Town for 2018. A lot going on in Whitby for National Civic Day.

If you want to share what you are doing for National Civic Day 2018 on June 16, let us know here.

What will you do for National Civic Day? Whitby Civic Society share some thoughts.

War Memorials Trust Grants Scheme – next deadline for applications

War Memorials Trust urge custodians and those responsible for war memorials to apply for funding as soon as possible where conservation and repair is needed as there is now limited funding available which is supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s First World War Memorials Programme.

This funding will only be available until the end of the First World War Centenary later this year.

Please be aware that all cases will be assessed on a priority basis. Those wishing to submit a Grants Pre-application should engage with the Trust as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. For those who have already received Pre-application advice please note that the next deadline for grant applications is 31 st March 2018.

War Memorials Trust Grants Scheme – next deadline for applications

Ian Harvey to speak at event in London discussing the future of conservation areas

Civic Voice AGM 20.10.17 175

Civic Voice’s Ian Harvey will be joining a panel in London next week to discuss the future of Peckham’s conservation areas and we want your thoughts on some of the questions being posed to the panel!

Speakers for the evening include:

  • Simon Bevan, Director of Housing, Southwark Council
  • Ian Harvey, Executive Director of Civic Voice
  • Claire Hegarty, Chair of Peckham Heritage Regeneration Partnership.

This public meeting will be opportunity to explore a range of questions including:

  • What are Conservation Areas? How do they protect our historic built environments?
  • What pressures are Conservation Areas facing? Can they fail?
  • What does positive and negative change look and feel like?
  • How is quality of design evaluated? What is exceptional design?
  • What is an example of a well managed Conservation Area, and what is an example of a badly managed Conservation Area?
  • Is there any point in objecting to planning applications; in particular how could the Conservation Area Management Plan be more meaningful, or is it entirely irrelevant?

Please do share any thoughts you have on the questions above as we will be sure to highlight many examples of successful conservation areas across the country to info@civicvoice.org.uk.

Ian Harvey to speak at event in London discussing the future of conservation areas

What Price Air Quality? Seminar/Briefing organised by Leeds Civic Trust

Air Quality

You may be aware that Leeds City Council is in the middle of a consultation on improving Air Quality in Leeds, including the possible introduction of an “Air Quality Zone” and the introduction of charging for certain categories of vehicle. Leeds Civic Trust will be holding a seminar on 7th February at Leeds Town Hall, between 6pm-8pm, to discuss what is being proposed and why. The evening will take the form of a series of presentations followed by discussion and Q & A, chaired by journalist and broadcaster Peg Alexander. The speakers will include:

  • Cllr Lucinda Yeadon, Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Board Member for Environment and Sustainability, Leeds City Council
  • Neil Evans, Director of Resources and Housing, Leeds City Council
  • Polly Cook, Executive Programme Manager, Leeds City Council
  • Dr James Tate, Associate Lecturer, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds
  • Dr Ian Clifton, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, Leeds Teaching Hospitals

The event is open to anyone and is free of charge, but we ask that you register via this eventbrite link so that they can manage numbers:


What Price Air Quality? Seminar/Briefing organised by Leeds Civic Trust

Sharing the stories of the First World War Memorials Programme

We are delighted to invite community groups, local authorities and others with an interest in the First World War, to a series of free events across England to hear from volunteers and others about how communities have been commemorating the First World War. You will also have the chance to hear speakers from Civic Voice, Historic England, Imperial War Museums and War Memorials Trust. We hope you will be inspired to go back to your own community to identify and record the condition of your own memorials as the nation remembers the fallen 100 years on.

The centenary is a chance to understand more about the First World War, uncover its stories and explore what it means to us today and a series of events will be organised so we can “hear the stories” and review the past few years to see “how communities have remembered the fallen”.

We invite you to attend a free event near to you in:

If you have yet to engage in the commemoration, please do attend these events as it will be your chance to see how others, in the final year of the centenary are remembering the former members of their community.

After the event, you too can make a difference by making sure your local war memorial is protected for future generations by getting it listed and added to War Memorials Online.

If you would like more information on any of the above, please do get in touch with Civic Voice here.

War Memorials Condition Survey Toolkit
If you can’t attend a workshop, Civic Voice has created a toolkit to allow you to learn how to survey the condition of your war memorials. The toolkit takes you through each step and also provides you with all the resources you need to complete a condition survey. See the toolkit here.

Sharing the stories of the First World War Memorials Programme