At the Annual General Meeting held on 8 October, it was agreed that Membership should be opened to organisations and colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Ireland (North & South). This is subject to continued discussions and consideration of differences in law and practice, and the logistical implications of the wider geographical reach of the Forum, but it will make the Forum more inclusive and enable those across the borders who have supported events and used our guidance documents for many years to engage more closely with the Forum. It will also offer wider funding opportunities.
So from January 2009 the organisation will be known as the HISTORIC TOWNS FORUM.
The Annual Report was presented to the AGM and Sam Howes (Chair) summarised the work of the Forum during the past year, which had included the publication of two very successful guidance documents - 'Focus of Retail' and 'Manual for Historic Streets', conferences exploring the value of the industrial heritage, retail development, streetscape and tourism, as well as a study tour to the Netherlands.
The Forum had also contributed to, and participated in, a wide range of activities and responded to consultations from Government and policy making agencies to represent the views of the Membership.
Membership continues to grow but the move to Unitary Authorities presents a potential threat to the Forum's income from Membership fees. This will be partly addressed by changes to the fee bands (based on population size) and a small percentage rise in fees, which was agreed by the Meeting.
There was also support for the proposal for an additional category of Membership for Town & Parish councils which will be welcomed from January 2009
Sam thanked the Sponsor / Partners for their continued support and welcomed the announcement that Bircham Dyson Bell LLP had agreed to support the Forum.