Planning and Protection for Quality Places - Annual Conference Report

Early arrivals in Chichester on Wednesday afternoon enjoyed a tour of the City.

The Annual General Meeting followed at 4.30 in the Chichester District Council Committee Rooms. See AGM minutes.

Delegates at the Pallant House Gallery

At the meeting the new Chair was introduced to Members. Debbie Dance, a qualified surveyor with conservation credentials, is currently Director of the Oxford Preservation Trust and probably best known for her role in the Oxford Castle Project. She said that she hoped that with her experience working with all sectors and in key positions in a range of organisations she would be able to help to carry the Forum forward.

Later in the evening delegates enjoyed a canapé party at the award winning Pallant House Gallery with a welcome from Leader of the Council, Cllr Myles Cullen and a presentation from Gallery Director Stephan Van Raay, with the opportunity to see the full collection and Pallant House.

Sam Howes, (outgoing) Chair of HTF and Deputy Chief Executive of Chichester District Council, opened the conference on Thursday morning with the question – Does the historic environment enhance quality of life? He considered that it does and also provides models of sustainable communities. The conference, he continued, would explore how this should be protected and potential impacts on the population. Quality of life is an appreciation is what we are experiencing – as experienced at the Pallant House Gallery. A balance was needed between the conservation of the past and making a contribution to the 21st century – as epitomised by the Pallant House extension.

He introduced a challenging presentation by Wayne Hemingway, who despite his ‘other interests’, explained why he chose to live in Chichester. With ‘place and quality of life’ as his central theme, he agreed with the Romans that we “should leave a place better than we found it”. As he and his family and employees travelled the world he encouraged them to take photographs to build up a collection to illustrate the evolving history of the built environment. He emphasised the important contribution made by housing design, especially in historic towns. There is no doubt that more housing is needed for a range of economic and demographic reasons, but much new build has no ‘soul’ and is not fit for purpose. The Building for Life programme can offer help and guidance in this area and ensure that ‘livability’ is at the heart of development. He recommended “The Spirit Level” by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett.

less sustainable example more sustainable example

Health and well being are proven to be influenced by the built environment, he continued, but in the list of the world’s most liveable cities the UK featured only ONE example – London at #35. He went on to explain his involvement in some housing schemes and to illustrate good and bad examples.

Given the environment in which they had to live, he was not surprised by the behaviour of young people. He despaired at ‘health and safety’ rules and supported ‘free range kids’ and building communities together.

Steve Bee, Director of Planning & Development, English Heritage, was able to update delegates on the PPS15 consultation and assure them that there was a commitment from Government to support heritage. He emphasised the modern, integrated approach to Historic Environment and the focus on the protection of significance. He considered that a great deal could be achieved without primary legislation and guidance would be published to accompany the PPS. He explained the timescale which was envisaged:

  • An online application form for designation will be made available on the EH website in April 2010 and a map/GIS enabled application form will be available from December 2010
  • Ability to make and monitor applications for designation online, using the EH corporate website by end of December 2010.
  • Principles of Selection – will be updated and made available online between April and December 2010.
  • An online search of the List of Heritage Assets: listed buildings, scheduled ancient monuments, register of parks and gardens, register of battlefields, protected wreck sites and World Heritage Sites will be available by the end of 2010, along with a download capability which will be refined during 2011.

The Heritage Partnership Agreements (HPA), however, do require legislation, although pilots are going ahead from which lessons will be learned and training developed. The Act will also give statutory status to Historic Environment Records (HCR). Other changes include Local Listing, for which guidance is being developed with the IHBC, and off-shore planning policy.

The Heritage Protection Reform project will create awareness of and enthusiasm for HPR, provide the necessary technical knowledge, deliver training for non-heritage professionals and enhance partnership working and best practice.

Sam thanked the speakers and invited them, together with Rob Kinchen-Smith (RPS) and Keith Williams, Keith Williams Architects to answer questions from delegates before breaking for coffee.

John Stonard, CABE Programme Manager, Design Liverpool, opened the next session with an exploration of characterisation in housing renewal areas. Creating places in which people want to live will require a variety of facilities in the same place – shops, schools – as well as houses. Demolition of houses in failing neighbourhoods has swept away whole ‘places’. His work in the NW has included 9 Pathfinder projects through which extensive urban surveys led to a model brief which enabled ‘rapid area assessments’ to be undertaken. These identified house types, architectural details, significant public buildings, landmarks, shops, the quality of the public realm, including distinctive local stone etc. From this an appropriate form of characterisation can be developed to identify significance and value.

He also emphasised the importance of the integration of the historic environment into future plans and strategies. From this work coherent applications can be developed which are also supported by publications such as 'Building for Life' and 'Building Sustainable Communities: Action for Housing Market Renewal'.

Professor Mike Coombes of the Centre for Urban & Regional Development Studies, at Newcastle University, had carried out the research commissioned by English Heritage which made a significant contribution to the 2009 Heritage Counts publication. EH was anxious to test the assumption that the historic built environment was important to people’s sense of place. Evidence was required if funding requests were to be substantiated in the future. Primary research and new surveys were needed to understand the objective nature of the environment. Following an extensive literature search, surveys were carried out into the ‘level’ of sense of place, and of social capital, of adults and teenagers and the views of some key professionals on relevant impacts of built heritage.

The research concluded that:

  • Living in more historic built environments is linked in adults to a stronger sense of place
  • For both adults and teenagers, evidence of more interest in historic built environments also links with a stronger sense of place (nb overall the model is weaker for teenagers)
  • This may be the first robust evidence of links between sense of place and being interested in and/or living in more historic built environments (almost certainly so in relation to teenagers)
  • Although a very strong sense of place can have less positive consequences (eg fostering an ‘embattled’ and unwelcoming localised sense of identity), there are more references in the literature to such rootedness (working with higher levels of social capital) supporting beneficial social outcomes
  • There are opportunities for more inter-disciplinary research on these issues.

In summary he concluded that the historic environment was generally seen as a ‘good thing’.

WexfordKeith Williams, of Keith Williams Architects, had been responsible for many contemporary buildings in historic environments but chose three – each at a different stage – to illustrate his approach. The first was the Chichester District Museum which was planned for the North West quadrant of the city, currently the site of a car park. Although the very early archaeology would form part of the building no attempt would be made to re-create its Victorian or Georgian surroundings. Part of the site would be made available for housing which would help to ’repair the streetscape’ which had been swept away. The materials (bricks) for the houses would reference the Georgian neighbours, whilst the Museum would be re-caste stone - “more like the heroic buildings of the City”.

The second example – the Marlow Theatre in Canterbury – was separated by a former car lot from the river frontage, and although well supported, was falling down! The new theatre which was larger, whilst continuing to defer to the Cathedral, is due to open in October 2011.

The Wexford Opera Festival had outgrown its original venue but retaining its town centre location was felt to be vital to its continuing success. A very complex building plan was able to retain the modest entrance whilst significantly increasing capacity and comfort.

After lunch delegates were offered several options:

Walking tours of Chichester focused on the City Walls, the Public Realm and ‘Living in the City’ were led by Sam Howes, Anne Bone, Steve Carvell and Andy Howard. A workshop led by Sarah Chaplin and John Worthington introduced the projects being piloted by the Academy of Urbanism – the UniverCities – Learning from Place. This was followed by brain storming sessions around five themes:
  • Developing the heritage offer
  • Measuring heritage impact and value
  • Building heritage networks
  • Extending heritage learning
  • Cherishing heritage significance

At a feedback session Sarah introduced the Starter Pack - how to implement a UniverCity, after which each group’s discussions were summarised.

George Ferguson entertains dinner guests including Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway

 

Sam and Karen HowesThe Conference Dinner was held at Brasserie in the Park at the Festival Theatre. George Ferguson entertained diners, after which Chris Winter, HTF Director, made a presentation to Sam Howes and his wife Karen to mark the end of his second and final term as Chair.

Sam Howes opened proceedings on Friday morning with a resumé of the previous day’s proceedings and introduced the first of three case studies.

Norden 1595Anne Bone, Arts and Heritage Development Manager at Chichester District Council, briefly explained the history of Chichester which had given it its form and urban grain, which had been both damaged and repaired over the years. She considered that the numerous cultural assets – the Festival Theatre, the Pallant House Gallery, the Cathedral, City Walls, District Museum and its parks – were what gave the City its special sense of place and distinctiveness. The value of the heritage was also realised through consistently high quality and an economy sustained by retail and tourism activities, as well as a high level of community engagement. Strategies were in place to address Conservation Area Character Appraisals and public art as well as maintaining design quality. The role of the retail offer in the local economy was significant and a strong element of the visitor attraction. However, she added, there were issues regarding the evening ‘offer’ and accommodation.

Tony Dignum explained the role of the Chichester Society which had been formed in 1973 and currently has 750 members. The Society had been actively engaged in a number of major projects in the City and believed strongly in its continuing development whilst respecting certain limitations to growth. The old Shipham’s site and the Graylingwell site were examples of the reuse of existing buildings to accommodate housing demands. Traffic issues, including parking shortages and high public transport fares were other issues with which the Society engaged. He concluded that working in partnership with the local authority and other organisations was essential and change must be accepted but with minimum harm to the heritage.

The appraisals and managements plans prepared by Dawn Morse, of Turley Associates, had taken a very positive approach to historic townscapes. These had been prepared for Falmouth on behalf of Cornwall County Council and had encouraged a ‘passion for place’. The town is one of the largest Conservation Areas in the country but changes from a shipping history had meant the harbour and town centre had become disassociated, which was not helped by the topography. The plan was to link the appraisals to the core strategic policies in order to help to deliver these more effectively, giving officers the security of SPD, and linking to the new agendas – eg sustainability. Several smaller initiatives also needed co-ordination with local authority projects. Working together with local groups also helped to improve the tourism offer through a cohesive approach. Dawn explained the importance of the appraisal to understand what you have and what is special, before creating a management plan in order to put in place proactive plans for the future. It also ensured a single point of reference and a good tool for design guidance. The street by street survey engaged the community as well as identifying what was good and where there were opportunities for improvement. Views, urban grain, the green network and the public realm were all included and local estate agents’ statistics used to demonstrate the value of well cared for heritage. The end product is accessible both online and in libraries, to civic societies etc, and the benefits of a better living environment and higher property values can be realised. The need for political support in order to sustain the strategies is important as are links with community groups throughout the town, she concluded.

Falmouth

Nick Taylor then talked about the Renaissances of Scarborough. The award for Britain’s most enterprising town, followed by European and international awards, had been the result of a great deal of hard work but also fun, he said. Serious social and economic problems had taken the town to ‘the brink’ although it had a colourful and prosperous history as the UK’s premier seaside resort.

The South Foreshore - ScarboroughThrough extensive community engagement and support from Yorkshire Forward a broad based Strategic Development Framework was developed. Placemaking, he said, was at the heart of this strategy. In addition, bringing significant local buildings back into use helped to restore civic pride, and improvements to the harbour area made better use of a formerly wasted asset.

Bringing a wide range of activities to the town and its surroundings – including the Castle – has also helped to regenerate the economy through job creation, inward investment and the visitor economy. This in turn has led to investment in a high quality public realm, raising of aspirations and levels of involvement generally. The virtuous spiral has levered in funding and encouraged improvements to the accommodation offer.

The change in the image of sea side resorts – from genteel bathing to surfing and power boat racing – has been embraced, together with full potential for activities in the surrounding forests and moors. The positive influence has extended to education, with improved results and linkages between colleges and employers, which in turn improves retention levels. Nick was aware that there was a long way to go in some respects but the corner had been turned.

Sam thanked the speakers and then introduced the next topic – the HTF response to the PPS15 consultation to which members were asked to contribute their views. This was being co-ordinated by Vice Chair, Brian Human, who had prepared a summary of the long and arduous background to the document and the points he felt the Forum should make.

He considered that the document was not visionary enough and did not recognise heritage as a non-renewable resource. Nor was there a presumption in favour of conservation. The 'desirability of enhancement' could be a much stronger imperative, and a more robust assertion that heritage is fundamental to quality of life could have been made. Regarding archaeology there is no presumption in favour of preservation in situ, nor guidance on dealing with the unexpected. Grade II listed buildings appear to be diminished in status which could have major implications. The resource implications for Historic Environment Records were not appreciated and there was no mention of DDA or access to the historic environment!

In conclusion, he said that it was ‘process driven’ with little to ensure positive outcomes – adding that monitoring in itself has resource implications. There are no longer linked performance indicators so heritage is not prioritised and unless the Bill is enacted there is no statutory basis for many of the proposals!

Brian asked for comments and additional suggestions for the HTF response to be sent to him in order to meet the deadline.

Some discussion followed including the case for non-cooperation, the lack of links to current legislation, the lack of reference to transport or the public realm and the fact that it ‘takes the heritage brake off development’. It was agreed that a strong response should be made including the additional points made, followed by a press release.

See related articles:
HTF response to PPS15 (press release)

HTF reponse to the PPS15 consultation questions

Sam Howes concluded with thanks to all the speakers, tour guides, the Pallant House Gallery team and especially Anne Aston at St Mary’s Hospital, as well as Officers and Members at Chichester City and District Councils and the HTF team.

After lunch delegates were offered tours to the Cass Sculpture Foundation and the Rolls Royce Motor Assembly Plant at Goodwood.

 

The tour of the Rolls Royce plant was an excellent illustration of the way the Planning process can balance different issues and then be proactive in securing a quality end result. Although occupying a countryside location, and therefore potentially subject to policy objections in principle, the District Council took the view that the prestige of having a quality manufacturer in the area, the creation of additional jobs(some850) and the synergy with nearby Goodwood, all weighed in favour of it. The building is a contemporary design, set low in the landscape so that it is not prominent and is surrounded by extensive landscaping -  400,000 plants in total.It is also highly sustainable with ground water heat pumps and automatic solar shutters on the facades of the building. The overall result was very impressive although sadly for Rolls Royce the order books did not increase as a result of our visit!