2009 news articles

Real Ministerial engagement at Scottish heritage conference

The event held in Glasgow on 3 November not only engaged representatives of a wide range of heritage organisations but demonstrated the commitment of Culture Minister Michael Russell MSP. A morning of stimulating presentations was concluded by discussions Chaired by the Minister roaming the room with a hand held microphone, encouraging very open debate.

“This was a very unusual sight.” commented HTF Director, Chris Winter, who attended the event. “We are struggling to engage the UK Government in meaningful discussion about the historic environment, and this hands-on approach was very refreshing.”

Many of the same issues which are faced south of the border are challenging Scottish colleagues – the impact of VAT on the care and maintenance of historic buildings in particular. However, what was also evident was the emphasis on castles and museums as epitomising heritage, and Chris was at pains to make the point that the everyday historic environment – the houses, shop fronts, town centres and public spaces – were just as important, and the responsibilities of local authorities (which were under represented at the conference) to maintain and manage these places needed support. View the conference presentations and speeches

Although the links between heritage management and tourism are obvious, other disciplines - traffic management, housing and retail development - must be integrated into the conservation agenda if contemporary agendas and sustainable outcomes are to be achieved, which is how the Forum operates and offers guidance, based on good practice.

Related articles: Historic environment integral to economy
Is there a place for modern Scottish architecture in our towns and cities
Culture Minister to call for spirit of collaboration at heritage summit
IHBC applauds HS & Minister at Summit

Book Review

Ground Control - Fear and happiness in the Twenty-First Century City

Anna Minton This book should be compulsory reading for all architecture and planning students, as well as recommended reading for already qualified practitioners in all fields impacting on towns and cities. The gradual erosion of truly public spaces can only be detrimental to ‘sustainable communities’ which are (we are told) the core of this Government’s policies. Ms Minton explores, through case studies – in particular the development of Docklands in London – the move from aristocratic ownership of land and property, through the Victorian revolt to bring local authorities into being – for the ‘pubic good’ – and the erosion of this to emphasise the economic dimensions of this loose definition. Accommodating legislation and subtle takeovers of vast areas of our towns and cities has taken responsibility and power away from communities and transferred it to huge corporations. Many of these have ‘philanthropic’ objectives and engage fully with the local authorities and communities. Others may be more motivated by the demands of shareholders and bonus-earners. Although not focused on historic towns, Ms Minton’s treatise has important messages for members of the Forum if the character and special identity of these places are to be maintained for future generations. Explore your nearest shopping mall for the discrete little sign which tells you that it is Private Property and informs you what you may or may not do. What is apparent, through this research, is the ‘you can’t do that’ attitude of those managing the spaces, creating a highly regulated and therefore elitist space where smoking, congregating and taking photos is outlawed. Ms Minton suggests that it is only a matter of time before Trafalgar Square and other great public meeting places are privatised. The HTF has long argued that the essence of historic towns and cities is not just the buildings but the public spaces around them. These spaces in themselves have a rich history. The erosion of ‘public’ space in new developments, including urban regeneration projects, is of deep concern, and although this book may not have the solutions, it highlights the issues which must be addressed.  Published by Penguin Books (paperback original) 25 June 2009 Price £9.99 ISBN 978-0-141-03391-4 256 Pages  Published 25 Jun 2009

Practical Guide to National Infrastructure Projects

Law firm Bircham Dyson Bell (BDB), in conjunction with Butterworths, has announced the publication of the first guide to the wholly new process for obtaining consent for national infrastructure projects under the Planning Act 2008.

Under the Planning Act 2008 far reaching changes to the way in which such projects are both identified and approved were introduced. The changes are significant and will impact upon the future development of a wide range of projects from nuclear power stations to new airport runways, reservoirs, ports, highways and rail projects.

Robbie Owen, Head of Major Projects at BDB, said:

The ‘Practical Guide to National Infrastructure Projects’ will provide both promoters and objectors with a practical step by step explanation of the new regime along with detailed guidance on the issues which typically arise in the development of major projects, such as environmental impact assessment, consultation and the management of objections”.

Butterworths commissioned BDB to write the Guide given their market leading position of advising both promoters and objectors of/to nationally significant infrastructure projects across the UK. A team of lawyers at BDB pulled together their expertise and years of knowledge gained through advising a diverse range of clients to produce the user- friendly Guide and practical reference source to the new regime.

Welcoming publication of the Guide Sir Robert Walmsley, Chairman of the Major Projects Association, commented:

“As the new system provided by the Planning Act comes into force, it is important that those involved in the planning and delivery of major infrastructure projects have a clear understanding of how the new regime will operate. It is therefore with great pleasure that I welcome this clear, practical and authoritative guide to the new regime by Bircham Dyson Bell, a law firm and major projects consultancy well known for their expertise in advising on major infrastructure and other projects”.

The Guide complements BDB's work in editing the majority of Butterworths Planning Law Service and producing Butterworths monthlyPlanning Law Bulletin.

For more information about the Guide and to order a copy.

Mark Challis
For and on behalf of Bircham Dyson Bell LLP

New BURA Regeneration Training Programme supported by HCA

RTP logo
  • London – Launching the 3 November
  • Manchester – launching the 5 November
  • Sheffield - Launching the 3 December
  • Birmingham – Launching the 15 December

The new BURA Regeneration Training Programme developed with the support of the Homes and Communities Agency provides a comprehensive and in-depth insight into regeneration.

Join this unique programme to develop the skills, knowledge, experience and contacts required to create practical and innovative solutions to current regeneration challenges and deliver holistic regeneration.

Who should attend?

Those from public, private and community sectors who want to maximise their performance in delivering regeneration and sustainable communities.

Why should you attend?

  1. To maximise the impact you and your organisation make.
  2. To understand how to deliver regeneration with fewer resources.
  3. To take practical knowledge back to your organisation.
  4. To connect with and understand your potential partners.
  5. To develop your contacts across the public, private and community sectors.

BURA is pleased to announce that there are the following discounts available:

  • CVS groups – 100% bursary support available
  • Female Practitioners - £450 discount on full programme fees available
  • Enhancement Fund - 42% off full programme fees (Private Sector Organisations on Sheffield Programme only)

Where and when?






Regeneration in context

3 November

5 November

15 December

3 December

Economic Development & Financing Regeneration

8 December

10 December

12 January

14 January

Social Impact of Regeneration

5 January

7 January

16 February

18 February

Environment & Regeneration

9 February

11 February

15 March

18 March

Physical Regeneration and the Built Environment

9 March

11 March

13 April

15 April

Delivering Regeneration and ‘Place-Shaping’

6 April

8 April

11 May

13 May

″The importance of developing skills and capacity in regeneration has never been more significant. The BURA Regeneration Training Programme delivers the most up-to-date, practical and informative training available. This is a must attend programme for anyone involved in the regeneration and sustainable communities sector.″
Michael Ward, Chief Executive, BURA

To register your interest or to receive further details please contact us.
Telephone: 02075394030 Email:training@bura.org.uk


The Forum is fortunate to be represented on the Historic Environment Review Executive Committee, or HEREC as it is more conveniently known.  HEREC is convened by English Heritage under the Chairmanship of John Sell CBE, from the Joint Committee of National Amenity Societies.  It brings together a wide range of bodies concerned with the historic environment, from the Greenwich Foundation to the Church of England and the Heritage Lottery Fund to the Institute for Historic Building Conservation.  It is an excellent forum for keeping abreast of what is going on and working with colleague to influence policy and action across a huge range of historic environment issues.

One of the key concerns of the Committee in recent months has been preparing for the publication of Heritage Counts 2009.  In addition to the usual status report on the historic environment, this year’s edition will include 2 important pieces of work.

First, a review of policy priorities, including making the best use of resources, capacity building, closing gaps in protection, Planning Policy Statement 15 (PPS15), the Government’s vision for the historic environment and the historic environment in the recession.  Second, the results of a study into the relationship between the historic environment and perceptions of sense of place and social capital, commissioned by English Heritage from a consortium led by Centre for Urban and Regional Studies.  This work promises to be significant in underlining the social value of investment in our heritage.

Heritage Counts 2009 will be launched with a question time session at RIBA, Portland Place, on the evening of 21 October.   We anticipate that this will also be the occasion for the unveiling of the Government's heritage vision statement.

HEREC is already turning its collective mind to Heritage Counts 2010.  Probable key themes include: heritage protection and the economies of historic places; and understanding heritage and its relationship with diverse communities and personal histories.  New research on both will be commissioned.

At the meeting on 19 August, Duncan McCallum reported on the mass of comments about the draft PPS15 that have been generated within English Heritage.  Some key issues are emerging around place making, Grade II Listed Buildings, designated assets, individual assets versus the strategic overview and definitions and terminology.  Duncan said that much more work needs to be done to bring a coherent response together before the deadline for comments on 30 September 2009. 

HEREC also agreed at that meeting to set up a group to look at issues around climate change and the historic environment.  The proposed terms of reference say: ‘The aim of this sub-group will be to coordinate and drive forward the work to reduce the risk to the historic environment and our cultural heritage from the impacts of climate change (adaptation) and respond to the need to move towards a low carbon society whose lifestyles and resource use will prevent further climate change and respond to the rising costs of fossil fuel and increasing concerns about energy security (mitigation)’.  The Forum will be represented on the group.   

If you have views on any of these matters please let us have them – they will make our contribution to HEREC all the more effective.

Brian Human
Vice Chair, HTF

PPS15 Consultation

The nation-wide consultation on PPS15 is an opportunity to improve heritage protection whilst enhancing historic towns. HTF will respond to the consultation after testing the views of Members at the Annual Conference in October. We will also be working with English Heritage to ensure that the guidance, which will support the Statement, will be sufficiently robust for officers and elected members to rely on when making difficult decisions. 

We urge Member Local Authorities to respond, and to contribute to the discussion in Chichester in October to strengthen the lobby on behalf of historic towns and cities.

Retaining Local Distinctiveness

Should towns look distinctive? As high streets and town centres sink into a glitzy sameness – same shop fronts, same logos – from one side of the country to the other, this question is beginning to exercise minds in local government.

We believe the answer is clear. People invest and want to live in places which look unique, not like everywhere else. It is also increasingly clear that, in towns where shops are locally owned, retail takings circulate in the local economy with continuing knock-on benefits. That looks likely to be a key measure of economic success in years to come.

The other question is: can anything be done about it, or do they just have to roll over in the face of global brand marketing, bland regeneration and high rents?

However some places have bucked the trend. What they have in common is that they understand that branding for towns must be underpinned by a distinct sense of place, rather than simply having marketing messages imposed upon them.

They also understand that distinctiveness must be real. It must be rooted in local history – a living history – and resonate with local people. It is more than conventionally recordable assets.

They understand too that small things are just as important as big things: the texture and feel of a place is vital to how a place is perceived, and small changes – such as the removal of eyesores, even a lick of paint – can make a big difference.

Distinctiveness is partly about architecture and conservation. It is partly about buildings, but it actually means having a broader view of what constitutes 'assets'.

All neighbourhoods and towns have 'assets', sometimes hidden and impossible to measure using conventional economic techniques – which may be, for example, a healthy network of local businesses or local traditions.

When we organised our first distinctiveness study, for eight towns in Cheshire, we realised just how broad the range of distinctive assets might be. They included the extraordinary volunteering efforts in Congleton, the canals that form the Cheshire Ring, the industrial stone architecture in Bollington and of course, the tradition of making Cheshire cheese – which, incidentally, dates back to the twelfth century.

It is about local food and local life. It might not be historic at all. It might be an emerging living tradition. The point is not to censor real distinctiveness in search of something that fits neatly into marketing text books.

The key is to persuade local alliances and organisations that they can use those assets – local enthusiasm, empty buildings – to make things happen.

In the short-run that will make them more exciting places to live. In the long-run, it will make them richer economically too.

David Boyle is a fellow of the New Economics Foundation and the author of Authenticity: Brands, Fakes, Spin and the Lust for Real Life. www.neweconomics.org

Planning for prosperous town centres? - PPS 4 – its impacts & implications.

The present ′town centres first′ policy has been with us for over a decade. Initially designed to halt the regional out of centre shopping behemoths of the 1980s ′PPG6’ has, over time been through several Governmental statements of clarification, has changed moniker (to ′PPS6’) and in the latest twist in its evolution has had 2 rounds of consultation in the last 12 months.

The revisions promise no fundamental change from the mantra of ′town centres first’ and this approach is right – town centres are usually those areas most accessible. Pairing retail and other services where the greatest population has the widest access promotes social inclusion and the juxtaposition of retailer against retailer creates competition.

However past policy has not been without its ′unintended consequences’ – there has been much criticism that the move into towns, driven by the increased expectations of retailers and their ability to serve greater populations from fewer stores has benefited only the ′apex predator’ towns and cities at the cost of smaller town and district centres. The ′need’ test, in particular, was criticised in the Barker review of the Planning system as a ′blunt instrument’ which it was concluded may inadvertently protect out of centre retail destinations at the expense of town centre regeneration.

In its latest incarnation, the Government proposes changes which subsume the strategic guidance for town centres within a wider statement of ′economic development’ under PPS4 ′Planning for Prosperous Economies’. The guidance proposes the removal of the needs test in the weighing of planning applications and its replacement with a ′more sophisticated’ impact test which considers the effect of proposals across economic, environmental and social criteria. However the test, designed to be flexible, is complicated and where such opportunity for interpretation arises, the consultant and legal profession benefit and the planning system potentially slips further into red tape.

The latest twist is that the House of Commons Select Committee, set up to examine the role of existing retail policy and in particular the role of the need test, reported (just at the point of closing for representations on the consultation draft PPS4) that it remained unconvinced that the ′needs’ test had the unintended consequences predicted by Barker et al. Its recommendation is now to keep the tougher impact test set out in consultation draft PPS4, but also maintain the ′need’ test.

Where this leaves an already embattled retail industry in a ′simplified planning system’ debate is anyone’s guess – another round of consultation perhaps?

Ian Anderson
Head of Retail and Leisure Planning
CB Richard Ellis

This topic will be presented fully at the conference in York on 24 September