2012 news articles

2012 news articles

Scotland's Towns Conference - Creating New Stories for Scotlands Towns

Scotland's Towns Conference - Creating New Stories for Scotland's Towns - 07 November 2012

As the highlight of Scotland's Towns Week, this year’s Scotland's Towns Conference will be the perfect gathering for everyone with an interest in Scotland's towns and high streets.

Timed to capture and test the outcomes and ideas from the first meeting of the Scottish Government’s Towns Review Group, we anticipate attendance, this year in particular, will be a priority for national and local government politicians and officers and key stakeholder and representative bodies; all responsible for the influence of policy and strategic delivery across Scotland’s towns.

Scotland Towns Partnership hope that you will join them in participating either as a delegate or in taking up one of a range of commercial opportunities, designed to make your organisation synonymous with Scotland’s towns – you can sponsor, exhibit, put an insert in conference packs and this year, for the first time, run a fringe event.

For more information and to book see: http://www.scotlandstowns.org

 

 


 

 

Heritage and the High Street - IHBC North West Branch, 17 October

IHBC North West Branch - Day Conference

at Liverpool Medical Institute, 114 Mount Pleasant Liverpool L3 5SR
on Wednesday 17th October 2012

" HERITAGE AND THE HIGH STREET"

According to a recent report by Deloitte, the future of High Streets in our towns and cities will consist of mainly coffee shops and internet kiosks- with 4 out of 10 shops closing in the next 5 years! this will be the direct effect in the change to consumer buying trends as shoppers move from traditional methods of shopping such as visiting the high street to on- line shopping.
This conference will address these and other challenging issues on how we can protect our historic environment and adapt to survive these changes by bringing together the retail sector to provide vitality and diversity with local authorities so as to create stability and regeneration.
                                                                                                            

By exhibiting at this event you will have the unique opportunity to present your company to an influential and professional audience from both the private and public sectors.  Delegates include Architects, Planners, Conservation & Development Officers, Engineers and Designers who are involved in the care and conservation of the historic built environment, and are at the forefront when the buying decisions and recommendations are made at both local and national level.

Please find information attached regarding the upcoming Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) one day Conference on Wednesday 17th October 2012.

Stand space size/ cost options (all prices exclude vat.) 
2m x 1m stand space @ £295          3m x 1m stand space £365
Please note- the exhibition will be for one day only – Wednesday 17th October 2012.

There is also an opportunity to have your company brochure included in the delegate packs which will be given to all delegates attending the event.  This facility is available at £90 for exhibitors or £125 for non exhibitors, (Up to 25gms per item. Heavier weights are acceptable however, a small add-on charge may be required.).

The attached leaflet contains all you need to know about the event, including the exhibition floor plan, facilities, prices, the delegates and the programme of events.

Exhibitors are recommended to make full use of the free delegate place included in the cost of the display. This special offer will enable an exhibitor representative to attend the conference sessions, receive refreshments and, of course, establish or renew useful contacts.

To reserve your stand space booking or should you require any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me direct on any of the following: Tel: 01462 896688, Fax: 01462 896677.   Email: geoff@hall-mccartney.co.uk.

Vanessa Gregory (HTF member) speech to HRH The Prince of Wales

Vanessa Gregory’s speech given at the reception held at St James’s Palace State apartments on Tuesday 1st May 2012.  

Ladies and Gentleman  

My name is Vanessa Gregory, I am proud to be a resident of St Albans. In fact I am at least a 5th generation Albanian.

St Albans is about 20 miles north of London, via Watling Street, the Roman equivalent of the M1, although settlements here predate the Romans. Our built environment reflects for centuries we were the first overnight coaching stop on route from London.  We are also a place of pilgrimage. Our wonderful Cathedral (known locally as The Abbey) stands over the place where Britain's first Christian martyr Alban, was buried.

I recall even as a child of seven, a sense of wonder and privilege, that from my street I could face in one direction to the green fields of Gorhambury, and yet have the city centre within five minutes walk – a distinction between town and country that still exists today.  

Equally I have a passion for the work of The Prince’s Foundation.  25 years ago, I watched His Royal Highness’ pioneering TV documentary, “A Vision of Britain”.  I recall how his fervent well articulated pleas chimed with something deep within me.  St Albans character had been gradually chipped away, and His Royal Highness was certainly not alone in believing in the importance of providing architecture that had resonance with local people. 

Just over 3 years ago I met and listened to James Hulme from The Foundation at a conference.  He explained how The Prince of Wales vision had evolved into The Prince’s Foundation. Their work, he explained, reconciled the professional practice in planning and development, with the often seemingly conflicting views held dear by local people. We tend to approach planning, with views that stem from the heart and local knowledge and dare I say it, common sense, rather than just stark rationality.  

I could hardly wait for the lunch break when I waylaid him, and left him in no doubt that I intended to find a way, somehow, for The Foundation to work with the community in St Albans, before our city centre was further damaged.

I must pay tribute to James, as he has consistently encouraged and helped me in this ambition.

My deep concerns were that parts of our Civic Centre redeveloped in the 1960’s, when modern architecture of the day was most dominant, were ready to be torn down yet again.

Planning applications were starting to come forward and were met by alarm and frustration from residents.  I have to confess, I have literally cried in our council chamber, when applications have been given approval, which many of us knew were wrong for our city. Very few seemed to have any architectural merit.  We appeared set to make the same mistakes again.  Many proposals could have been, as one resident said, for St Anywhere not St Albans! 

Therefore I was absolutely overjoyed and relieved when recently I and the whole community in St Albans worked with The Foundation, on our collaborative initiative called, ‘Look! St Albans, Inspired by the past – picture your future’.

Through our civic society we formed a city centre steering group, of which I am proud and honoured to be a part. Our one aim was to facilitate the Look St Albans initiative and encourage all the community in taking part in our venture.  We felt design codes would offer a clear and yet flexible tool to enable developments to take place.  Our aim was not to stop development, but to set the bar that was acceptable to the whole community, and would prove durable!

We certainly were not passive in this process. We promoted, advertised and funded the hosting of the community’s events. Our local newspaper The Herts Advertiser provided us with immense support, carrying a special feature each week on our progress.

We asked everyone to take photos of aspects of our city that inspired them and they found appealing. To enable anyone to join in we set up our web presence on the photo sharing website Flickr. 

The work was intense; the team from The Foundation were utterly inspiring with their hard work and encouragement.  It was a totally exhilarating experience.  For once we actually felt we could make a difference, right from the start.

Helpfully I feel the councils Chief Executive recently said of our Look St Albans project; “This is exactly the sort of community initiative that the council’s members and I want to see…. We look forward to the project’s recommendations and working closely with the steering group to make them a reality.” 

The report co-authored by The Foundation and the community will be presented this month.  With the community spirit that has so far been engendered, there is a very strong desire to carry on our work to complete the design codes.

I hope I have given you a flavour of why I am so immensely proud to have been a part of this project.  My joy has been to see people who were hesitant to take part, blossom.  New friendships have been made, contacts established and working relationships cemented.

However most of all my beloved St Albans now stands a chance of being shaped by those who care most, us the community.

We in St Albans are very grateful that our initiative has been partially funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government, ‘Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning’ programme. 

My fervent hope is that people like me, in other communities, who care just as passionately as I do are given the opportunity to work with The Foundation, so they too can be inspired by their past and picture their future!

Thank you

Cut the VAT

Cut the VAT

 

 

 

 

July 2012

Campaign against the withdrawal of zero-rate VAT for approved alterations to listed buildings: evaluation paper

Introduction

On 21 March 2012, in the Budget, the Government announced its intention to remove the zero rate of VAT for approved alterations to listed buildings from 1st October 2012. On the same day HMRC published a consultation document entitled 'VAT: Addressing borderline anomalies', which invited comments on several changes to the VAT regime including the changes to work on listed buildings. Several organisations in the Cut the VAT coalition launched a campaign to try and reverse the Government’s decision. Ultimately the campaign was unsuccessful and on 3rd July the Government used an amendment to the Finance Bill to introduce this VAT increase. However, some important concessions were won and some valuable lessons learnt. This paper provides a short evaluation of the campaign for the organisations involved.

Supporters:

Organisations representing a variety of countryside, heritage and construction industry interests offered support for the campaign. This varied support and its united voice is considered to be one of the campaign’s strengths.

21 organisations showed initial interest when a meeting of the Cut the VAT coalition was called in April. Subsequently 17 organisations signed a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, representatives from 13 organisations attended a meeting with Treasury Minister David Gauke MP and 15 different organisations supported a joint response to the consultation. 18 organisations signed a letter to the Telegraph and 16 signed up to an open letter to the Chancellor which was printed in The Times.

It was noticeable that despite initial engagement the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Royal Institute of British Architects did not lend their support to the majority of the joint campaign activities for their own different internal reasons.

Other organisations outside of the Cut the VAT coalition were also seeking to influence the Government's decision in a variety of ways. These included English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Trust. Support from ‘friendly’ government departments including DCMS, DCLG and the Office for Civil Society was limited and it was felt that support from the Scottish and Welsh Governments was weak.

The Church of England very quickly mobilised supporters to help make the case for protecting listed places of worship from the proposed increase in VAT. Although the campaign is likely to have stood a better chance of success if the Church of England had worked with and not against the other interests involved, it is felt that the split was unavoidable.  

Position and evidence base:

The organisations supporting the campaign were united behind concerns about the negative consequences of the VAT increase on the UK’s heritage and businesses delivering building services in this sector. It was felt that all organisations should try to present a united front to the Government and not be tempted to seek exemptions for any one particular building type. Therefore, the campaign’s position was to ask for a full reversal of the Government’s decision. It was acknowledged this would be extremely difficult to achieve and therefore it was necessary to consider other possible improvements to the situation presented by government, including:

  • A longer transition period for projects already underway.
  • An extension to the Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme to include other building types.

As the campaign progressed it was felt the Government was likely to offer improved transitional arrangements in response to its opponents. Although there was some debate between supporters it was agreed that the campaign should maintain a firm position on asking for a full reversal of the decision rather than imply better transitional arrangements would be sufficient to meet the campaign’s demands.

HMRC offered the following justifications for removing the zero rate:

  • The zero rate is an anomaly that needs to be addressed.
  • Reliefs have been exploited by avoiders or non compliant businesses, allowing them to secure an unfair advantage over other businesses.
  • The zero rate amounts to a loss of revenue to HMRC.
  • The uncertainty and complexity of the current rules create costs for businesses and HMRC, including litigation costs where the two cannot agree.
  • The majority of the work covered by the zero rate consists of extension work which is not necessary for heritage purposes. A zero rate for alterations introduces a perverse incentive for change as opposed to repair.

It was agreed that the Cut the VAT coalition response would focus on the following counter-arguments.

A zero rate for alterations introduces a perverse incentive for change as opposed to repair: A twenty per cent increase in VAT, so suddenly applied, is not the appropriate tool for discouraging unnecessary alterations, which are already controlled through the planning system by the need for listed building consent. Indeed, it is thought that by withdrawing the zero rate the Government will remove any incentive for property owners to obtain the consent in the first place with obvious consequences for our historic buildings.

The zero rate amounts to a loss of revenue to HMRC: The removal of the zero rate will have a worse impact on the economy owing to the damage to our tourism industry, our historic environment and the negative impact on local building firms that will be unable to train apprentices and may even be forced to cut jobs or cease trading altogether. 

Some new evidence was provided thanks to an FOI request submitted by The Heritage Alliance, a review of listed building consents by the Listed Property Owners Club and research from English Heritage into listed building ownership. This helped to expose the weaknesses in HMRC’s evidence base and justifications for the VAT increase, but it was not sufficient and the Government continued to claim its own evidence was adequate.

It should be acknowledged that the campaign’s biggest weakness was the lack of evidence on the size of the market for alterations to listed buildings and the ability to start to quantify the economic, social and environmental value of heritage. Although we asked the Government to launch a further review of the impacts to allow the campaign more time to collect this important evidence, if the information had been available prior to the Budget the Government may have chosen to stick with the status quo.  

Case study evidence was collected by many of the organisations involved. However, this evidence largely supported the need for better transitional arrangements to support projects already underway. The information collected could not provide the powerful counter-arguments needed to provoke a u-turn.

Outputs:

Lobbying

Organisations working within the Cut the VAT coalition attempted to initiate insider negotiations with the Treasury. A joint letter was sent to the Chancellor on 1st May signed by 17 organisations. Subsequently, the signatories on the letter were invited to a meeting with Exchequer Secretary David Gauke MP to discuss the issue.

Some organisations also had meetings with the Minister for Tourism and Heritage, John Penrose MP.

The Cut the VAT coalition submitted a joint consultation response supported by 15 organisations, and many organisations also submitted their own consultation responses. 

Parliamentary activity was quite limited. Prorogation and the Queen's Speech in May curtailed the number of sitting days during the course of the campaign, which did not help. Many organisations sent briefings to a target list of MPs, which varied from organisation to organisation and from briefing paper to briefing paper, although organisations did share intelligence to support this activity.

The Heritage Alliance secured strong support from the Labour DCMS and Treasury teams and helped to keep the issue alive for the Opposition Party. The final opportunity MPs had to debate the measure was at the Report Stage of the Finance Bill. The only Bill amendment that supported the campaign's objective was withdrawn because it had been debated and defeated at the Committee Stage. 

Media

Notable media coverage for the campaign included:

'A tax on our heritage' - a letter to The Telegraph, 18th May
'VAT levy putting finest buildings at risk' - page 5 of The Times, 14th June
Letter to The Times - 14th June
'Loyd Grossman on VAT changes' - Country Life magazine, 25th June

It was disappointing that despite initial interest, The Times newspaper chose not to provide further coverage. This was particularly frustrating since supportive quotes had been provided by the following celebrities, George Clarke, Phil Spencer, Loyd Grossman and Jonathan Foyle.

The FMB put out three press releases during the course of the campaign. According to the media evaluation reports from May and June, these press releases were covered in 99 press articles reaching over 7.2 million people.

Public campaign

Traditional campaign structures were used to try to mobilise public support including information and advice designed to encourage people to write to their MPs. Organisations also encouraged their own members and wider networks to sign the e-petition on the Government's website 'Save our heritage: say no to VAT on work on listed buildings', which had been started by Wakefield Cathedral. The e-petition closed on 27th June 2012 with 13,467 signatures. Although it is felt more could have been done to increase the number of signatures, it is recognised that a significant amount of resources would have been needed to reach the 100,000 signatures that can trigger a debate in Parliament. In comparison, the National Trust petition against the National Planning Policy Framework received 250,000 signatures, but the petition was supported by all of the National Trust's properties and the online campaign specialists 38 Degrees. 

Outcomes:

Despite the best efforts of the campaign the Government has now passed legislation to remove the zero rate of VAT once and for all on approved alterations to listed buildings starting from 1 October 2012. The change was made in primary legislation during the passage of the Finance Bill 2012, which received Royal Assent on 17th July.

Two important concessions have been made since the original proposals were published. The Government has announced an extension to the Listed Places of Worship Scheme Grant Scheme, which will allow listed places of worship to reclaim some of the VAT paid on alterations as well as repairs. The amount available in the scheme has also been increased to £42 million. While the news is welcome, it offers no compensation to owners of listed buildings that are not used for religious purposes. In fact only 6.5% of listed buildings are religious, ritual or funerary. The Listed Places of Worship Scheme Grant Scheme is due to be reviewed again by the Government in 2015.

Importantly, the campaign has helped to win one concession, which will provide some protection for listed building projects currently underway. Where owners have applied for Listed Building Consent before 21 March 2012, the zero rate will now apply until 1 October 2015.
These transitional arrangements are much better than those originally proposed by HMRC on Budget day. They should also enable some stalled projects to get going again, since owners will be safe in the knowledge they have three more years to complete the approved alterations before the additional 20% VAT charge will apply.

The majority opinion was that the more generous transitional arrangements were granted in response to the consultation process. The Government is able to say it listened even if the heritage and construction sectors feel that there was no strong or consistent engagement with the parts of government that mattered. It is also felt the Government had expected to use the transitional arrangements as a point for negotiation from the outset. David Gauke's approach to the meetings he held with organisations involved in the campaign also support this conclusion.

The formal consultation period was also extended by two weeks, taking it from an 8 to a 10 week consultation period. This is still shorter than the 12 week period recommended in the Government's own best practice guidance and did nothing to address concerns that the consultation came too late in the policy development process to actually influence the policy outcome. Instead comments were invited on the implementation of this irreversible change to the VAT regime. However, it is unlikely 2 more weeks would have provided enough time to gather sufficient evidence to better quantify the impact of the measure.

HTF comments - Planning Act 2008

 

HTF logo 1

 Planning Act 2008: Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects: Application form guidance - Consultation
Comments from Historic Towns Forum (HTF) 

 

Application Form Guidance
The Guidance provides for a box on the application form relating to the historic environment and this is most welcome. 

However, the Forum is concerned about Regulation 5(2)(m) of the Infrastructure Planning (Applications: Prescribed Forms and Procedure) Regulations 2009, which sets out the information that should be referred to in Box 17.   This says:

"where applicable, a plan with accompanying information identifying any statutory or non statutory sites or features of the historic environment, including scheduled monuments, World Heritage sites, listed buildings and other historic structures, archaeological sites and registered battlefields, together with an assessment of any effects on such sites, features or structures likely to be caused by the proposed development;"

A lot depends on the word 'including'.  Is the list that follows it intended to be definitive or merely to cite examples?  The HTF fears that it might be interpreted to omit Conservation Areas, locally listed buildings and any other heritage assets not referred to specifically.  The guidance to completing Box 17 should be amended to clarify the position and encourage agencies to ensure that the entire historic environment is covered. 

Guidance on the pre-application process
We note that this deals mainly with community consultation but also refers to the requirements for EIA, in which historic ernvironment evidence would normally feature.  We also note that this would not be expected to be available at the pre-application stage, but that the EIA should address any issues raised in consultation.  The HTF is content with this.

Associated Development Guidance
Guidance on Associated Development has been amended to take account of the Localism Act amendments and clarify the existing guidance in a number of areas.  This appropriate.

However, as the Guidance sets out what is allowable (and not allowable) as associated development we urge that works to mitigate impacts on heritage assets be added to the list of examples.

Examinations Guidance
The Guidance does not appear to pose any specific historic environment issues and the HTF notes the changes.

Compulsory Acquisitions Guidance
The Guidance does not appear to pose any specific historic environment issues and the HTF notes the changes.

Fees Guidance
There are no issues related to fees that the Forum wishes to raise.

Historic Towns Forum
7th July 2012

Call to lobby Government on reversal of Heritage Tax

HTF agree completely with Loyd Grossman, Chairman of The Heritage Alliance’s excellent letter to The Times calling for a reversal of the budget measure to withdraw the zero VAT concession on approved alterations to listed buildings. The letter can now be viewed  on the Heritage Alliance website at http://tinyurl.com/6qxas26

As Loyd says, the Chancellor has conceded that the proposal would inflict huge damage on historic places of worship. It is clearly in the long term interest of the country to retain the zero rating for all building types and for all owners.

Now that the pasty tax, the caravan tax, and the charity tax have been over turned, this is a critical time for the heritage sector.  We urge you to bring pressure to bear on any contacts you have in Westminster or Whitehall. Please see below the parliamentary briefing already sent by The Heritage Alliance to 85 or so MPs:


Withdrawal of VAT relief on approved alterations to Listed Buildings: briefing 3

29 May 2012

The Heritage Alliance believes the Government’s rationale for withdrawing VAT relief from alterations to listed buildings is fundamentally flawed.

We are calling for the VAT exemption for approved alterations to listed buildings to be retained, irrespective of building type or ownership.

The Government’s rationale is flawed because:

1.    Our Freedom of Information request reveals lack of evidence

The evidence for the Budget proposal to remove the zero rate of VAT over approved alterations to Listed Buildings is inadequate, and misleading over the level of abuse.

HMRC’s reply to our FoI request reveals:

  • their evidence consists of a sample of just over 100 cases (out of 29,000 listed building consent decisions 2010-11). This inadequate sample has been used to imply that this significant EU concession is unnecessary for heritage purposes
  • HMRC is unable to substantiate the Government’s  assertion that this ‘loophole’ is being abused to get tax relief on swimming pools, admitting “HMRC does not hold information on the breakdown of the total number of alterations by the type of alteration or by the number of swimming pools that have been installed”. This mischievous assertion has misled the debate by implying widespread abuse.

The evidence base justifying the Government’s proposal has been found to be lacking in substance and rigour, and its unsubstantiated press lines to be disingenuous.

2.   The consultation process for such a fundamental change of policy is inadequate

The consultation process is a far cry from usual Government Code of Practice. Instead of three months, the initial consultation deadline of 4 May (six weeks) was extended only to 18 May (eight weeks).

And the consultation does not comply with the first criterion of the Code, that “formal consultation should take place at a stage when there is scope to influence the policy outcome.”  Instead HMRC’s consultation document “VAT:  Addressing borderline anomalies” states: This consultation is being run for this shorter time as the legislation introducing the changes will be laid in the summer”, implying the outcome of the consultation is pre-determined.

These procedural shortcomings are particularly acute when considering that this decision is irreversible; this rare EU tax concession once lost can never be replaced.

3.   Strong consensus the impact will be greater than estimated

The clear consensus from the many letters and consultation responses copied to us is that the additional 20 per cent cost will have a much stronger adverse impact on desirable heritage work than the Government predicts - not only on the sustainability of our historic building stock but also on the level of construction work undertaken. Numerous schemes are being curtailed or cancelled, damaging not only our heritage but also local businesses and volunteer-led initiatives.

The Chancellor’s increase of £30m (to 2015) to the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (17 May) concedes that the imposition of VAT will damage our heritage. It is nonsensical to recognise the damage to listed buildings in the hands of religious bodies, but not to those in the hands of community groups, small businesses and private owners. The Chancellor has favoured one building type but there are many other secular listed buildings, such as community centres and village halls, which face similarly acute challenges in raising money to give them a viable twenty first century lease of life.  Private owners also face higher costs for renovating listed buildings, and this renovation of our built heritage is very much in the public interest.  The Government’s proposal is an inadequate and inequitable ‘solution’.

4.  The public benefit of nationally designated heritage assets is ignored

The three per cent of buildings in this country that are Listed are, by definition, a public good. All owners of listed buildings take on responsibilities for the finest of our outstanding heritage on behalf of the nation, supporting economic growth through heritage led regeneration, tourism, construction and as a huge resource for the fast-growing creative industries. Whether they are congregations, local community groups, charities or private individuals, all owners deserve recognition. This is no time to be adding 20% to their costs.

This makes listed buildings unique amongst the categories of goods affected by this Statutory Instrument (hairdressers’ chairs, takeaway food, sports drinks). All our listed buildings are specifically designated as national assets for present and future generations. They should not be the victims of an HMRC drive for tidiness in their own internal operations.

For these reasons:

  • The Heritage Alliance calls for this Budget measure to be withdrawn
  • There should be no special treatment - the zero rate for approved alterations to listed buildings should be retained for all listed buildings, irrespective of building type or ownership.

CONTACT: For further information contact: Kate Pugh, Chief Executive, The Heritage Alliance 020 7233 0800 kate.pugh@theheritagealliance.org.uk 10 Storeys Gate, Westminster, London SW1P 3AY.

ABOUT THE HERITAGE ALLIANCE:

The Heritage Alliance is the largest coalition of heritage interests in England. Together its 92 members own, manage and care for the vast majority of England’s historic environment. Alliance members range from specialist advisers, practitioners and managers, volunteers and owners, to national funding bodies and organisations leading regeneration and access projects. Their specialist knowledge and expertise across a huge range of issues - regeneration and asset transfer - is a highly valuable national resource, much of which is contributed on a voluntary basis for public benefit. They are in turn supported by over five million members and thousands of local volunteer groups.

Two new publications offer a place-based approach to local distinctiveness

Congratulations go out to English Heritage and the City of Lincoln Council who have just launched two reports that together outline a local approach to capitalising on the inherited character of places. The documents are aimed at all people involved in place-shaping, including planners, developers, communities and third sector organisations.

Plans in Place: Taking a local approach to character in Lincoln demonstrates how a detailed knowledge of the inherited character can enhance the ways in which they are valued in the future. Using a series of 31 case studies Plans in Place shows how the Lincoln Townscape Assessment, a bespoke characterisation evidence-base for Lincoln, can be used in three key areas: Plan-making, Development Management and Community-led initiatives, including Neighbourhood Plans. Characterisation evidence, such as Conservation Area Appraisals, Townscape Assessments and Historic Landscape Characterisation, are held by the majority of local authorities and this report provides an inspirational insight, including 6 easy to use toolkits, into how their proactive use can be maximised to create and shape sustainable places.

Historic Townscape Characterisation - The Lincoln Townscape Assessment: A Case Study outlines the methodological approach used to document the inherited character of the places that make up Lincoln. It provides practical advice on how to create a detailed evidence-base for local character, building on the historic environment records held by most local authorities, and outlining the benefits such can deliver. The report also introduces www.heritageconnectlincoln.com the online interface developed to communicate the information identified through the Lincoln Townscape Assessment, which was short-listed for two E-Government Awards in 2010.

The good practice and project work outlined in the reports was recognised by the Royal Town Planning Institute in 2011, winning the Regional Award for 'Planning Process', and the 'Overall Winner' Award for the East Midlands. The Localism Act and the National Planning Policy Framework emphasise the need to build on the existing character and distinctiveness of places in planning future change. We hope that these reports will provide a useful insight into the approach being taken by the City of Lincoln Council and Partners to deliver these policy objectives.

The reports are available to view and download at www.heritageconnectlincoln.com/plans-in-place A limited number of hard copy reports may be available from the City of Lincoln Council on request (please contact gill.wilson@lincoln.gov.uk).

Walk the World and link your historic town to the Olympic nations

Join in the challenge to find international connections which take you around the world without leaving the UK and put your local town on the map!

Walk the World is part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad's Discovering Places campaign to inspire individuals, groups and communities across the UK to discover and promote their local environment. The aim of the project is to find links between the UK and the 206 Olympic and Paralympic participating nations. Through a new website www.walktheworld.org.uk you are encouraged to explore their neighbourhoods, find evidence of links to the 206 nations and send in your findings. So far there has been a great response, people have been finding everything from Senegalese street names in Liverpool to Russian sheep in Suffolk and the grave of a West Indian slave in Edinburgh. These are just a few of the unexpected links that have been found so far. Now you too can reveal international connections between your historic town and the competing nations.

Walk the World offers everyone an easy and exciting way to get involved in the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Links are everywhere - in buildings and monuments, place names and street names, plants and animals, people and communities, so look around you and send in your findings to www.walktheworld.org.uk  and put your home town on the map at the same time!

You can find out more about how to get involved in Walk the World at www.walktheworld.org.uk or by watching the BBC slideshow at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16572812