2008 news articles

The Townscape Challenge

Lichfield Delegates

'Townscape in Focus: Challenges & Opportunities' was the title of this year's Conference, but for many delegates the hidden question was, 'Is townscape still in trouble?' The answer delegates came away with may have depended on whether they were glass half full or half empty people. What they did get was the clear message that the biggest challenges lie in conserving the undesignated heritage, the everyday fabric that is both a delight to the eye and an essential part of local distinctiveness and sense of place.

They will also have left with the message that as the Heritage Protection Bill take its final shape, new PPS15 and PPS16 begin to emerge and further guidance and regulations follow the primary legislation, now is a critical time to both exert influence on government and key agencies at all levels and ensure the conservation house is in order.

There are four key challenges we need to face.

First, intelligence. There may be a belief that townscape is still in trouble, but the evidence is at best fragmented and at worst anecdotal. English Heritage is planning to publish a snapshot survey of 9,000 Conservation Areas in 2009 and this will provide a valuable benchmark. We also need some benchmarking of the widely recognised skills and staffing gap in the conservation profession.

Second, resources. There is a deeply felt perception that heritage protection is under resourced in terms of staff, skills, status and finance. Good work is being done by the IHBC, through the CapacityCheck programme and through English Heritage's Historic Environment Traineeships; and the promotion of project management skills aims to make the best use of resources. But is it enough?

Third, integration. Work done on local distinctiveness in Norwich and in-depth characterisation in Lincoln show the benefits of integrating heritage protection and a broader planning approach, married to inclusive techniques of community involvement. Heritage protection needs a less piecemeal approach than is currently the case.

Fourth, confidence. The unique study of Article 4 directions carried out by RPS showed the value of this conservation tool (though applied to only 15% of Conservation Areas) and dispelled some of the fears about compensation. Dudley MBC showed that local listing can be effective in the protection of otherwise undesignated buildings, if it is given the right support. The point from these examples is that we must be confident in using the available tools.

These issues will not be tackled by the new legislation and guidance. The Heritage Protection Act will help, but we need to get on and do what we can. The Forum will help in that by publishing guidance coming out of the Conference. It will help top up the half empty glasses!

Brian Human, Vice Chair, EHTF

Key findings of Article 4 (2) Directions research

  • 81% have Article 4 Directions covering one or more of their Conservation Areas
  • Some of the remaining 19% of Authorities without Directions in place nevertheless have significant numbers of Conservation Areas
  • The majority of Directions are in place to control permitted development rights to individual dwellings
  • The majority of Authorities have applied the use of Directions selectively, although some 25% have introduced blanket Directions across the whole of the Conservation Area, irrespective of the type of property concerned
  • None of the Authorities surveyed reported any claim for compensation against a refusal of permission.

see Article 4 Directions research report

2008 Strategy Meeting and AGM

The Forum moves forward

At the Strategy Meeting the Members discussed the current concerns and identified key topics for activities and guidance for the coming year. These included: Heritage Protection, Conservation Area Management, managing growth and parking / park and ride. See the minutes of the Strategy Meeting.

The Annual Report was presented to the AGM, and together with the election of the Executive Committee, Members agreed: to extend the Membership to include Town and Parish Councils and to Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and to make appropriate adjustments to the bands and scale of Membership fees. See the minutes of the AGM.

Townscape in Focus: Challenges and Opportunities a review of 'Townscape in Trouble' (1992)

The Conservation Area

1.The English planning system is undergoing a period of dramatic and controversial change. It seems that nearly every aspect of the system is currently the subject of a review, new guidance or legislation. In addition, Council planning departments are still coming to terms with the modernisation agenda, the target culture, the skills shortage, the new local development frameworks and climate change.

Tourism in historic towns - a quality offer

  

Despite the 'teething troubles' experienced, the restored Midland Hotel was an apt location for an event which explored the regeneration of resorts and the revitalisation of tourism in general.

Richard Simmons, Chief Executive of CABE, talked about the aim of 'Sea Change' initiative and the £45m he had 'in his back pocket' to spend on resort regeneration. Kurt Jansen, of the Tourism Alliance, followed with information about measuring the economic impact of tourism. He said that tourism generates £86.5bn per annum but also had added benefits. Peter Marsden, Head of World Heritage at DCMS, explained the need to review the UK Tentative List and the costs and benefits of World Heritage Site Status. Stuart Barrow of VisitBritain, talked about 'quality and quirkiness'; uniform national standards are vital to marketing but it is also vital to emphasise your USPs, PoDs and ESP!

Phil Reddy of North West Development Agency said that the aim of the Agency was to increase competitive awareness, which was linked to knowledge of what consumers are seeking, which would inform decisions on the retail, cultural and other experiential components that drive consumer choice.

Jim Trotman & Andrew Dobson of Lancaster City Council explained the changes which had taken place in the town in order to improve its economic and social well being and its aspirations for tourism within the wider setting of the natural and cultural heritage. Peter Middleton, of L&R Consulting Solutions talked about seven community led heritage regeneration projects including the Winter Gardens in Morecambe which had at one time played a significant part in the town attraction for residents and visitors and the current project which was the result of a 20 year campaign to restore the building.

Delegates enjoyed guided walking tours to illustrate the local case studies and discussions which included the impact of tourism on residents, the role of the coaching industry, the importance of strong leadership, embracing the changes in tourism and the importance of 'place'.

Chair, Brian Human, made some concluding remarks:

- the importance of the role of Champions for projects;

- the hard costs and soft benefits which needed to be considered in the decision making process;

- high quality in all aspects must the goal;

- celebrate the extra-ordinary - treasure what you have and share it;

- places are for people, whether they are residents or visitors.

He thanked everyone who had contributed to the conference, especially NWDA for their support and Lancaster City Council for their invitation.

See the speakers power point presentations.

Townscape in Lichfield

The Annual Conference this year will take delegates to a small City in the centre of England, to explore in the current context the issues of 'Townscape'. Dan Roberts, Conservation Officer and Urban Design Manager, Lichfield District Council says: "In common with many market towns and small cities in Britain, Lichfield now finds itself under the developer's gaze.