2009 news articles

Weathering the Storms - 11/12/2009

Cambridge Open Space
Cambridge - open spaces along rivers in historic towns are vulnerable to flooding due to climate change.

Our historic environment has seen long hot summers and bitterly cold winters come and go and has emerged a little weather beaten, but not too much the worse for wear, into the 21st Century. But that was changing weather - changing climate is another matter. The Historic Environment Review Committee (HEREC) has now set up a group with a specific remit to coordinate the sector's response to the climate change agenda.

Heritage Counts 2008 had a climate change focus, and highlighted the ways in which the historic environment can make a positive contribution to the challenges ahead. These included: adaptation to predicted changes; mitigation of the sector's own contribution to emissions; and public engagement on the issues. Heritage Counts 2008 also featured six key statements setting out an approach to the climate change challenge.

Since then, there have been a number of opportunities for further promoting the debate. These include public events, such as the CIoB Conference at Somerset House held in May 2009 (at which I presented a paper on behalf of the HTF); and there was the opportunity to respond to the Government's Renewable Energy Strategy.

Individual HEREC members will be engaged in different ways in the public debate around climate change, but there is a role for HEREC to join things up in a way that will ensure a more consistent voice from the sector. The new sub-group will look at the wide range of climate change issues that relate to the historic environment. The aim is to give out a strong message, share best practice and provide a forum for active debate on issues of current concern. HEREC has agreed terms of reference and the National Trust will Chair the sub-group.

The sub-group met for the first time on 15 October 2009 and agreed that it would be helpful as a first step to map the range of activities the heritage sector is engaged in already, covering:

  • Communications
  • Advice & guidance
  • Activity on own estates - case studies, projects and initiatives
  • Behavioural change - engagement and outreach
  • Research
  • Contributions to Government policy

Current contributions from the HTF include:

  • Communications - The HTF will address climate change issues through its Newsletter and website.
  • Advice and Guidance - The HTF is currently developing an area of its website to cover good practice in delivering growth in historic towns. This will include how to address climate change issues. The HTF has links with The European Association of Historic Towns and Regions, which has been involved with the CHEF project1.
  • Behavioural Change - The role of the HTF is to promote prosperity and conservation in historic towns, working principally through local authorities. Its work has touched on climate change issues, eg contributing to the CIoB Conference.
  • The sub-group is planning to meet again early in 2010. If you have views on this pressing challenge, and especially examples of good practice, please let me know so that I can feed them into the discussion.

    Brian Human
    Vice Chair HTF

    1The CHEF initiative aims at preventing moveable and immoveable cultural heritage from damage caused by flooding. Risk assessment and emergency measures as well as damage evaluation and restoration and repair techniques are considered in the frame of the project. www.chef.bam.de/en/index.htm There have been discussions about the preparation of Guidelines on Flooding.

Book Review: Planning for Climate Change

Author Simon Davoudi, Jenny Crawford & Abid Mehmood
Publisher Earthscan 2009
Price £49.95

This hard back book is a collection of 23 articles from a total of 36 contributors from around the world, all with academic backgrounds.

Part 1 explores the challenge of climate change and theories of “Adaptation, Mitigation and Vulnerability”. The articles range from issues of urban form to transport planning, and include impacts in Europe and developing countries.

Part 2 – “Strategic Planning Responses” – looks at a number of strategies in Europe, America and Canada, covering a range of topics including flood risk, water management, wind energy, construction and design.

Governance and engagement is discussed in Part 3, together with policy implementation.

The rather dense text has some black and white images together with graphs, tables and diagrams.

Book Reviews: The Handbook of Sustainable Refurbishment Non Domestic Buildings

Author Nick V Baker
Publisher Earthscan 2009
Co-Publisher RIBA Publishing
Price £49.95

This hard back book succinctly sets out the principles of energy use, economics and environmental impact. It then outlines the pertinent legislation, before moving on to practical and very detailed exploration of all the elements of buildings and their refurbishment. Part 3 contains five detailed case studies from the Netherlands, France, UK, Greece and Italy, each from the objectives through the project to the conclusions which could be drawn.

The book is copiously illustrated with photographs and detailed diagrams and graphs.

The year ahead

The uncertainty surrounding PPS15 and the forthcoming general election does not make planning for the coming year easy. However, there are topics which we know are important to Members and there are several which will be on the agenda:

  • The Conservation Areas At Risk campaign is being supported by a series of seminars around England in January and February (see www.historictownsforum.org/CAAR)
  • Heritage Protection: PPS15 is being closely monitored and we are working with Government and English Heritage on the document - expected Easter 2010. Until this is clearer the training requirements are also difficult to assess but it is a subject which we will respond to either separately or in partnership with other heritage organisations.
  • Housing growth, despite the ‘pause’ caused by the recession, is still something which many of our Members are facing and require guidance and examples of good practice. We are developing web-based guidance and are also considering a further event to develop the issues and to bring together research and exemplars for discussion.
  • The Park & Ride task group is also working on on-line information and guidance, as technologies in this field are developing very rapidly.
  • An Historic Core Zone is being developed in Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire and HTF is working with consultants Colin Buchanan on this project which should provide useful information for others seeking traffic calming solutions.
  • With the election expected, HTF will be working hard to increase awareness of the value of the historic built environment especially in the context of sustainable communities and climate change. This in turn should emphasise the resource requirements of those at the coal face – ie: local authorities.

These plans will be firmed up in the near future and as soon as more information is available it will be added to the HTF website.

Exploring Shared Space

Bury St Edmunds Historic Core Zone

Warwickshire County Council is exploring more radical traffic management solutions for some of its historic towns and the Shared Space model was one which was presented, by its advocate Ben Hamilton-Baillie, at a seminar on 18 November hosted by Arup, the consultant working with the Authority.

The Historic Core Zone model was also discussed after a presentation by Chris Winter (HTF Director) who also showed examples from Europe collected by former Chair Ian Poole during his CABE scholarship tour.

There were some clear conclusions from the meeting:

  • More data was required to alleviate questions around safety
  • More guidance was needed about what can done without needing to involve the DfT
  • Better dissemination of information
  • Elected Members need to be convinced of the arguments
  • Training and development issues need to be addressed
  • Cross-department working is vital for success
  • Reduction of speed is key for local authorities (ie traffic calming)
  • Be prepared to go back and make changes / improvements
  • Shared Space can be applied flexibly - as a concept
  • Maintenance and services are important factors to be considered.

The event offered a very useful mechanism for the exploration of ideas and information, at a very professional level, without the pressure to make decisions on specific proposals.

PPS15 ... Where are we now

Following the consultation process which resulted in more than 500 responses, the Government has decided to redraft this Statement. As part of this process English Heritage made some proposals that it invited representatives of heritage organisations to discuss at a meeting in London on 23 November. Representing the Forum, Chris Winter (Director) was able to re-emphasise some of the points made in the HTF response and to lobby the representative from CLG on the importance of this document to historic towns.

However it was also emphasised by many present at the meeting that the document is limited by the lack of the legislation required to underpin it. Without this imperative, local authorities will find it very difficult to justify the resources required to carry out many of the changes contained in the Statement.

It was made clear that there will be no further consultation before the final Statement is published (around!) Easter 2010, although CLG made a commitment to study the responses.

The partner paper – the Guidance – is being developed alongside, but representatives from English Heritage seemed unclear whether this would include any further consultation.

HTF response to Draft PPS 15

Membership benefits

Networking across the disciplines and across the sectors, helps to develop working relationships which in turn improves working practices in all fields. This is the Forum’s USP – it is the only UK-based organisation which facilitates this exchange.

Members receive information and have the opportunity for in depth discussion of the issues affecting their towns and cities at the events held around the country.  Both published and on-line guidance brings together examples of good practice to help decision makers.

Developing a range of ways of working with others, in different professions and sectors, is of great value to professional growth and participation in the Forum offers a way of increasing understanding and knowledge.

Although fees have been frozen, the standard of professional services offered by the Forum will remain high. The different categories of Membership have been created to meet the needs of all of those engaged in historic towns – as professionals or interested volunteers.

List of benefits and application form

New Executive Committee Members welcomed

Several new Members were welcomed at the first meeting of the Executive Committee on November 27:

Melbourne Barrett, Oxford City Council
Steve Carvell, Chichester District Council
Andrew Dobson, Lancaster City Council
Stephen Langtree, North West Civic Trust
Steve Tilbury, Winchester City Council
David Humphreys, a Corporate Member from the Republic of Ireland
Andrea Pellegram, an Individual Member.  

Full list of Executive Committee Members and their contact details

Projects undertaken in the coming year will be co-ordinated by a Member of the ‘Exec’ who will be glad to hear from Members.

Annual General Meeting 2009

Debbie Dance, Chair HTFThe most important decision of the AGM was to appoint a new Chair – Debbie Dance . This break from the tradition of the Forum is seen as an opportunity to open the Membership and to engage with a wider audience, at the same time raising its profile and thereby further increasing its effectiveness as a voice for its Members.

Although the past year had not been easy in financial terms, the Forum has achieved a number of well supported events and initiated projects which will continue into 2010. Report of the AGM

In these difficult times the Forum is totally dependent on continuing support from its Members and, with this in mind, the decision was made to freeze Membership fees for 2010 to encourage this continuing support. The scale of Membership starts at only £50 and Members enjoy a broad range of benefits for this – including very importantly professional development.

The Heritage Alliance - welcomed by HTF

The National Heritage Debate on 2 December was hosted by the former Heritage Link- after announcing the new name and introducing a new Chair – Loyd Grossman.

The audience represented the wide range of heritage organisations all of whom have benefited from the umbrella of the organisation and its success.

Representatives from the Conservative and Labour parties each claimed the high ground on heritage protection, followed by the Liberal Democrat representative who moved the discussion from museums and monuments to include the heritage environment in its wider sense.

Provocative questions from the floor probed the future of the Heritage Protection Bill – with commitments from both sides to support this; resources for heritage – everything from support for local authorities to VAT issues and how ‘localism’ was going to be supported in the future.

The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture and Tourism reminded the audience how much money had been invested by the present administration in policies and projects and the importance of projects targeting the young – such as ‘Find your talent’.

Ed Vaizey, Shadow Minister for Culture, considered the case for (the value of) heritage had already been made but the Treasury was “philistine” in its approach and therefore difficult to convince regarding changes to the tax regime. It was up to local authorities, he said to be “smart” about resourcing and for heritage organisations to work together.

Richard Younger-Ross, the Lib Dem’s spokesperson on Heritage, wondered how many buildings currently at risk would be lost whilst the new legislation was delayed and that Treasury support for heritage would give a very strong message to the public about its value to daily life. He called for a wider debate at Government level about heritage which might help to resolve the problem of the “fight for funding”.

“This event demonstrated the commitment and level of cooperation within the heritage sector itself” said Chris Winter, HTF Director, “but it also illustrated that we have a long way to go to convince policy makers of how much is being achieved on the ground and of the need for demonstrable support from politicians at national and local levels.

“HTF has supported Heritage Link since its creation and we welcomed the new name - ‘The Heritage Alliance’ - and new Chair and look forward to working together in the coming year on the challenges facing the sector.”