April 2014 Newsletter

April 2014 Newsletter

Director’s Message

The budget - guest blog by HTF executive member Steven Bee, Principal of Steven Bee Urban Counsel
There isn’t much to shout about, following the Chancellor’s latest tour d’horizon of the Country’s fortunes. Once again there was no response to, or even acknowledgement of, the campaign to correct the VAT anomaly that penalises those trying to make best use of our historic properties by keeping them in good repair and adapting to meet modern standards and requirements.  A modest contribution (£20m) to the repair of cathedrals was related to their role in commemorating the centenary of the First World War, so it is unlikely to be repeated.  Given that any works that might improve the backdrop to these events will have to have been commissioned already, this is likely to be a recasting of the existing budget held by English Heritage for such works.

The Government’s attempts to inject some urgency into the response to the housing crisis remain small scale, peripheral and dependent on the private development sector. The history of housing crises of the Twentieth Century showed that substantive changes were only achieved through major public investment in public housing.  It may be anathema to the present administration, but a 21st Century equivalent is likely to be the best, if not the only long term solution.  The 20 year-old plan to develop a new settlement at Ebbsfleet is now rebadged as a garden city – apparently the first since Welwyn in 1920 – but is unlikely to adopt the same principles of public land ownership on which the early movement, and early stages of the post-World War II new towns, were based.

Local Authority Members of the Forum will have lots of examples of historic settlements that were based on garden city principles from many periods. We should continue to promote the best of these as examples from which the next Government, whatever its complexion, might learn.

The Chancellor’s speech also drifted into the realm of planning regulation, for no obvious economic purpose.  Secretary of State Eric Pickles later suggested that this was to ensure that:  ‘hard working and hard saving people’ could invest in their properties without unreasonable cost.  The measures to broaden the scope of permitted development and stratify the consent regime will not make such activity cheaper.  They will however increase the propensity for development that could harm the value of neighbouring properties, owned by those hard working and hard saving people.  Sensitive and responsible development has no difficulty navigating the planning process; bad development is never good, however profitable.

Latest news

Farrell Review of architecture and the built environment

Sir Terry Farell’s independent review on the future of architecture and planning which was released yesterday after 12 months of consultation. The recommendations in the report, commissioned by Ed Vaizey, are split into five main categories: education, outreach and skills; design quality; cultural heritage; economic benefits; and built environment policy.
Read more

Further Government measures to cut regulation

Government ministers have announced a further set of measures to abolish or consolidate what it considers to be unnecessary or confusing regulations, including:

  • helping house builders by cutting 100 ‘overlapping or confusing standards applied by councils to new homes.’  Any remaining necessary standards will, so far as possible, be consolidated into the Building Regulations;
  • making it easier and cheaper for businesses to meet environmental obligations, reducing 100,000 pages of environmental guidance by over 80%; and
  • replacing a paper based recording system for waste with an electronic system.

Read more

Fast Tracking Planning Court?

There have been reports in the press about a Government proposal to fast track planning decisions for major infra structure projects as part of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill recently introduced before Parliament. The Bill does include provisions for the leave of the High Court to be required for any legal challenges to planning decisions for such projects.
Read more

Community Energy Funding

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has announced a new Community Energy Strategy to support local community energy projects. The strategy includes

  • a £10m Community Energy Fund to kick start community energy generating projects in England;
  • £1m Energy Saving Network fund;
  • A community energy saving competition £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money; and
  • A ‘one stop shop’ information service for people interested in developing community energy projects.

Read more

Community Infrastructure Levy too high

A report by Savills says that Community Infrastructure Levy rates are set by councils too close to the margin of viability posing a threat to the increased supply of new housing.
Read more and also more

Welsh Government Guidance on Planning and Economic Development

The Welsh Government has published guidance on how local authorities should take economic development into consideration when preparing local development plans and taking planning decisions. The guidance is set out in Technical Advice note (TAN) 23.
Read more

Town and Village Green new trigger events

The new trigger events after which land proposed for development is protected from applications for registration as town or village greens have come into force. Details of the ‘events’ are contained in The Commons (Town and Village Green) (Trigger and Terminating Events) Order 2014. This extends the list of trigger events which already prevented applications being made where an application for planning permission had been made or a site had been identified for development in a draft development plan. The restriction now also applies to land which is subject to a draft local or neighbourhood development order or a request for deemed planning permission.
Read more  and also (and see below)

Griff Rhys Jones denounces interpretation of national planning system

Griff Rhys Jones, the President of Civic Voice, has spoken out about the ambiguity of the National Planning Policy Framework. He made his comments while appearing on the BBC Daily Politics as part of a debate on the planning system with Conservative, John Howells MP. He said that the varying interpretations that can be given to wording in the Framework are making it much harder for local authorities to be able to refuse planning applications.
Read more

MPs challenge government on Portas Pilot spending

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has published a report which refers to the lack of information from the government on how much of the £2.3m allocated for the 27 Portas Pilots has been spent despite repeated requests for the information. The report also calls on the government to undertake a wholesale review of business rates and to consider whether retail taxes would be better linked to a company’s sales rather than the value of the property it occupies.
Read more

Historic Environment Scotland Bill and Strategy

The Scottish Government has published its first Historic Environment Strategy together with a Historic Environment Bill. The Strategy, entitled ‘Our Place in Time,’ sets out a ten year vision for Scotland’s historic environment. The Bill is the next step in establishing Historic Environment Scotland, the body which will replace Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS).   
Read more

First World War Engagement Centres announced

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Heritage Lottery Fund are to support five new First World War Engagement Centres at the universities in Birmingham, Kent, Belfast, Hertfordshire and Nottingham. The centres will support community First World War research projects, connecting academic and public histories of the war as part of the commemoration of the war’s centenary which commences this year.
Read more

Heritage Blacksmiths’ training completed

The National heritage Ironwork Group has announced that the first ever training programme for blacksmiths working in the British heritage ironwork sector has been successfully completed. The programme was training was set up in response to the need for training and standards within the heritage ironwork sector, and was primarily funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. 
Read more

Government to maintain support for Green Belts

Planning Minister Nick boles has indicated that the Government will consider intervening to support local communities and councils which wish to protect the countryside and in particular green belts which are threatened. The message was given in a letter to the Planning Inspectorate chief executive, Sir Michael Pitt, following a recommendation by a planning inspector that Surrey District Council should undertake a review of its green belt boundaries. He said that ‘The NPPF makes clear that a Green Belt boundary may be altered only in exceptional circumstances and reiterates the importance and permanence of the Green Belt.’ He requested that his letter be circulated to all planning inspectors.
Read more

Revised planning practice in force

The Department for Communities and local government has issued revised planning practice guidance in response to the review by Lord Taylor in 2012. Among other things the guidance:

  • makes clear that councils need to consider strict tests for flood risks of new development;
  • re-affirms green belt protection, noting that unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt and other harms to constitute very special circumstances; and
  • states that local plans can pass the test of soundness when local authorities have been unable to identify land for growth for years 11 to 15 of the plan period

Read more

HS2 review report issued

The new chairman of HS2 Ltd, David Higgins, Has published his review of the project including his thoughts on progress so far, its ongoing development and his plans for the future. He recommends that the programme for the northern section should be brought forward with the line from London to Crewe operational by 2027 and phase two completed by 2030 rather than 2033.
Read more

Garden City for Ebbsfleet

Chancellor George Osborne has announced that a 15,000 home garden city is to be built at Ebbsfleet in Kent. He made the initial announcement during an interview on the BBC Andrew Marr programme and confirmed it as part of the budget on 19th March. This is part of the Governments proposals to boost building of new homes announced in the budget.
Read more

Northstowe New Town

Plans for the next phase of Northstowe, a proposed new town of up to 10,000 in Cambridgeshire, have been published. Public consultation allowing local people to help determine how it will take shape began on 21 March. Around 3,500 new homes are proposed as well as town centre plans, and further development.
Read more

European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award winner led by HTF member

A UK-led cultural heritage tourism initiative has won a prestigious EU prize for its work in education and awareness-raising. The pioneering SHAPING 24 project links the iconic ‘Norwich 12’ buildings with 12 heritage sites in Ghent, Belgium, and was led by Norwich’s Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART) in conjunction with Ghent City Council.  The project has been announced as a winner of the 2014 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, by the European Commission and Europa Nostra.
SHAPING 24 is also up for the Public Choice Award, chosen in an online poll conducted by Europa Nostra - you can vote for HEART’s SHAPING 24 project here

Events and Seminars

Forthcoming Historic Towns Events

We have an exciting programme of events starting in 2014. In addition we will be introducing an events’ season ticket and further discounts on events for members who join again in 2014. Ask for details here

What events would you like us to put on?

We are now planning the rest of future programmes. What events would you like us to cover? Some ideas so far include Coastal Communities, revisiting the LEP issues, transport infrastructure and further events on accommodating growth. And where would you like us to hold them? We’ve had several requests for events in the north of England, later in the year. Places we are considering are Scarborough, Liverpool and Manchester. Let us know what you think!

Poundbury April 03 2014
Heritage Tourism, Ruralism, Communications and Business in a Broadband Age
England Tourism Week

The Historic Towns Forum in conjunction with ASHTAV will be holding its second National Tourism Conference during England Tourism week on April 3 2014. This will focus on rural heritage and tourism issues and how Broadband provision affects this, among other topical issues such as communications, transport infrastructure and economic growth in rural historic settlements. The event will be VisitEngland supported and will include tours around Poundbury, the often controversial and fascinating housing development instigated by HTF Patron, HRH Prince Charles.  With the recent government announcement that a further £250m is to be allocated to provide superfast broadband to the U.K.’s hardest to reach rural areas this event will be especially relevant to those working with business in rural areas.
Register here or book online  

London May 01 2014
Annual Heritage Legislation Update

On May 01 we will be holding our annual heritage legislation update at HTF partners’ office Bircham Dyson Bell, 50 Broadway, London, on 24 February 2014. With so much still changing in both the planning and heritage sectors, this event, hosted by legal advisors to English Heritage, is not to be missed.
Register here  or book online

Historic Built Environment Seminars Oxford 2014 – June 3 – FREE EVENT
The New Towns Agenda – Masterplanning for new towns, garden cities and urban extensions in the historic environment – theory, practice and examples

The Historic Towns Forum, the Association of Small Historic Towns and Villages, and Kellogg College are pleased to announce the inaugural series of Historic Built Environment Seminars. Beginning in 2014, these seminars will address current and contentious topics within the historic built environment, fostering academic dialogue, professional practice, and providing an arena in which the public, private, civic and academic sectors can engage in heated and healthy debate about all aspects of the topic in hand. The seminar series will be accompanied by published proceedings each following year.

The first of these took place on 25 February, and was a full house, and a resounding success, featuring David Lock, of David Lock Associates (and ex- Milton Keynes Development Corporation Chief Planner) on New Towns and Masterplanning.

Seminars begin with wine and nibbles at 7pm, followed by the seminar and discussion at 7.30pm. The event will finish at 9pm. The remaining seminars are as follows:

3 June Steven Bee, Steven Bee Urban Counsel, on Urban extensions and ‘Poundbury-Lite’
14 October Peter Larkham, Birmingham City University, on Conserving the post-Second World War reconstruction: a contentious idea
These are free events. Register here or register online
Please do join us!
Read more

Neighbourhood Planning – how to do it with heritage 13 August, Oxford, tbc
Annual Heritage Legislation Update

With so much gathering pace in the Neighbourhood Planning world, there are still few plans that are based around heritage. HTF Chair, Dave Chetwyn, who is also Planning Advisor to Locality, and author of the DCLG-approved Neighbourhood Planning Roadmap, will facilitate a practical workshop using relevant local case studies to show how to base a Neighbourhood Plan around significant local heritage.
Register here

Partner Events

Cheltenham Racecourse – 12 May
TMI Hot topic

This year's 'Hot Topic' conference is on 12th May at Cheltenham Racecourse, immediately prior to the VisitEngland Awards taking place that night.  Booking is now open, with Early Bird rates available until 5pm on Thursday 24 April, at www.tmi-events.org.uk

There will be a strong DIGITAL theme, picking up solutions for destinations following the recent State Aid guidance from DCMS, along with examples from destinations across the UK and Europe.  Speakers confirmed to date include:

  • Mathieu Hoeberigs - 'Tourism - all or nothing' - a personal perspective from the European mainland
  • William Bakker or Rodney Payne, THINK Social Media - Social Media solutions for the tourism industry
  • Val Hawkins, Mid Wales Tourism
  • Malcolm Bell, Visit Cornwall - 'Visit Cornwall digital marketing approach'
  • Jude Leitch, Northumberland Tourism - an update
  • Stuart Devlin, e-Strategy - Content at the Core
  • Mark Owen, South West Coast Path - Digital Add-ons
  • PLUS more being confirmed by the day

HTF members will be offered the same discount as TMI members.
Book here

National Civic Day

The fourth National Civic day will be held on 21st June. The Day is organised by Civic Voice, which is the national charity for the civic movement in England. It is an opportunity for town and parish councils, community groups and businesses to showcase what is of value in their local area. Civic Voice is organising three events for any interested parties to learn more about the Day and how to participate; in Bristol on 29th March, Wakefield on 5th April and London on 17th April.

Stephen Williams MP, the Minister for Communities will be the headline speaker at the Localism Alliance event in Bristol on 29th March. He will speak on the role of community rights and the increased powers available to communities to protect their local assets. Further Localism Alliance meetings will be held in Wakefield on 5th April and London on 17th April. The Alliance has been formed by Civic Voice, CAMRA, National Association of Local Councils, The Theatres Trust and Supporters Direct to raise awareness of the opportunities available to local communities to protect their alliance.
Read more

London 01 April
National Planning Summit

The inaugural National Planning Summit will be held on 1st April at the ILEC Conference Centre in London. The summit is intended to address the latest, most pertinent issues facing the planning system today.
Read more

Winchester 26-27 April
The University of Winchester Archaeology and Memory

Winchester is one of the most thoroughly excavated cities in Britain, and its excavations among the most fully recorded. Areas for discussion at this conference will include memory and identity, myth, legend and history, power, space, place, architecture and fabric, communications, landscape, art, literature and piety, charity and devotion. The main aim is to demonstrate the material past with modern memory and the implications therein for Winchester’s people, landscape, topography and history. The conference is designed to be accessible to everyone with an interest in Winchester’s past.
For more information
To book

Edinburgh 5-7 June
IHBC Annual School

The Institute of Historic Buildings Conservation (IHBC) annual school will be held in Edinburgh in June 2014. Professor Jukka Jokhileto will speak on the theme of ‘the philosophy and conservation theory, exploring the relationship with culture and science.’
Read more

London 24 June 2014 - RTPI Planning Convention 2014
Meeting the challenge: how will planners shape the future?

Book your place now for The Planning Convention 2014 and be inspired as they celebrate the RTPI's centenary and 100 years of professional planning. Taking place on Tuesday 24th June in Central Hall Westminster, London, the Planning Convention 2014 will ask what are the big challenges on the horizon that will shape the next 50 years? 

They will address major issues including how to deliver quality as well as quantity in housing, how we build healthier communities and how to overcome the real constraints upon economic growth, such as infrastructure and market failure. Expert practitioners will discuss what these challenges will mean for the quality of life for communities in different parts of the UK.

With a packed and flexible programme, and outstanding opportunities for networking and debate, these critical topics will feature across workshop and plenary sessions with speakers of national and international renown. Join the convention debate about how to make planning fit for purpose in shaping the future of our communities.
Book your place now!

York 11-13 July 2014 
Centre for Conservation Studies and ICOMOS conference

The Centre for Conservation Studies and ICOMOS-UK conference for 2014, titled ‘Engaging Conservation’ will be held in York on 11th-13th July. Proposals for conference papers have been invited on all aspects of engaging conservation - with communities, participation, skills and capacity.
Read more


Funding for coastal towns

The Treasury and the Department for communities and Local government have announced a multi million pound package to create jobs and apprenticeships in coastal towns across the country, including areas affected by the recent flooding. Over 50 projects have been awarded a share of £27.7m funding. Bidding for the next round of the Coastal Communities Fund is also now open. This will provide £64m to support projects across the country over the next three years.
Read more  and also

New Affordable Homes programme

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has begun inviting housing associations, councils and developers to bid for a share £1.7bn for new affordable housing outside London. The funding will be available for schemes over the years 2015 to 2018. The formal bid round closes on 30th April 2014 but a part of the funding will be retained for possible future bids.
Read more

Wales Vibrant and Viable Places regeneration funding

The Welsh Government has announced a further allocation of £100m for the Vibrant and Viable Places fund. Each of the eleven local authorities invited to submit bids will receive up to £15m. The funding will be used for various regeneration projects – helping to create jobs, tackle poverty, increase housing supply and improve community facilities.
Read more

HLF £5m funding for natural heritage

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded nearly £5m for two natural heritage projects: the U.K. wide “Saving our Magnificent Meadows” and “The Great Healthy Living Landscape” in South West England.
Read more

Local Authority support to deliver services

A new fund has been launched which is intended to help local authorities transform their services through the use of new delivery models such as mutuals and voluntary organisations. Delivering Differently is a joint programme between the Cabinet Office, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Local Government Association and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives that will use a £1m fund to support ten local authorities to develop and implement new models for delivering some of their services. Expressions of interest were to be submitted by 10th February and the successful applicants have now been announced.
Read more

New measures to help communities hit by flooding

David Cameron has announced a package of measures to help home owners, businesses and farmers affected by flooding. The measures include:

  • a £5000 repair and renew grant for homes and businesses;
  • businesses to get 100% business rate relief for 3 months; and
  • a total commitment of £750m from the major banks to provide financial support to business and individual customers

     Read more

£250m to boost superfast broadband

The government has announced that a further £250m is to be allocated to provide superfast broadband to the U.K.’s hardest to reach rural areas. Those interested in this agenda should attend our Rural Broadband Event in Poundbury on 03 April - book
Read more


Strategic Planning Policy Statement – Northern Ireland – 29 April

Read more and see consultation here

National Heritage Protection Plan – 02 May

English Heritage commenced formal consultation on the preparation of the new National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP) in March. The new plan will run from the end of 2015, when the current plan comes to an end, to the end of 2020. A meeting of the NHPP Advisory Board was held in February to offer initial advice to EH prior to preparation of the formal consultation document.
Read more and see survey here

Publications and Toolkits
Planning Practice Guidance published online

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has launched the final ‘alpha’ version of the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) online. This is accompanied by a list of previous planning practice guidance documents that are superseded by the guidance.
Read more

Loss of local authority conservation staffing

A new report by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), supported by English Heritage, shows a continued decline in local authority conservation staffing with a reduction in 4% in 2012, part of a ‘devastating 33% cut since 2006’.
Read more

In answer to the skills’ gap crisis in Local Authorities regarding the continued dearth and increasing cuts in Archaeological, Conservation and Heritage Officers, the HTF is held a free strategy event to determine what our part of the sector needs to do to address this issue. This was informed by recent IHBC and ALGAO research.  Speakers included ALGAO, IHBC, RTPI, English Heritage and others. Presentations and digest from the event are now available here.

VAT on housing renovation and repair

An independent research report by Experian suggests that a reduction of VAT on housing renovation and repair from 20% to 5% could boost the UK economy by more than £15billion from 2015 to 2020. It could also create more than 95,000 jobs and save 240,000 tonnes of CO2 from thousands of homes. The report is backed by more than 60 charities, trade associations, business groups and financial institutions that are united in calling on all three main political parties to commit to the reduction in their 2015 election manifestos. Read more

Poorly designed public spaces affect public health

A new report published by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), ‘City Health Check – How Design Can Save Lives and Money’, shows a clear link between land use and public health in English cities. The report compares three major health issues: diabetes, obesity in children, and physical activity in the nine most populated English cities. It shows that the healthiest cities have almost half the housing densities and a fifth more green space than the least healthy. It also claims that nearly £1bn a year could be saved if people could be encouraged to walk more hours per week.
Read more

Shop vacancy rates lowest for four years

The Local Data Company, which monitors more than 2000 town and shopping centres and retail parks, has published its latest report on shop occupancy. It shows that average vacancy rates have fallen below 14% for the first time in four years, although there are big regional variations. The report also shows the increasing impact and dominance of large shopping centres and retail parks.
Read more

Airports Commission publishes interim report

The Airport Commission’s independent review of airport capacity and connectivity in the UK concludes that there is a need for one net additional runway in the south east to be operational by 2030.
Read more

TCPA - New Towns Act 2015?

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has published a document showing how a new generation of garden cities could be developed as part of the solution to the need for new housing. The document is intended to encourage the political parties to commit to a programme of new garden cities in the run up to the general election in 2015.
Read more

Guidance to commons registration authorities

The Department for Environment, Food & rural Affairs has published guidance on registering town and village greens following changes made in 2013 under the Growth and Infrastructure Act.
Read more

New British Standard for building conservation

The new standard for building conservation, BS 7913: Guide to the conservation of historic buildings, has been launched by BSI.
Read more

English Heritage Searchable database of heritage planning

A searchable database of heritage planning and court cases has been produced by English Heritage to help access court cases to give involved parties the ability to challenge opinions from planning inspectors.
Access it here

About us

The Historic Towns Forum (HTF) has been supporting professionals and other members working in the historic built environment since 1987. Why not become a Member? Special events’ discounts and other benefits are available for members.

HTF membership

We invite professionals working in the historic built environment to join the membership. If you would like to enjoy the benefits such as discounts to our topical events and the chance to network with our Local Authority, Corporate, Private and Individual members, as well as with Agencies, Civic Societies, Community Groups and Sponsors, please visit this link to our website to join.


About us

The Historic Towns Forum (HTF) has been supporting professionals and other members working in the historic built environment since 1987. Why not become a Member? Special events’ discounts and other benefits are available for members.



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