2011 news articles

2011 news articles

Historic find in Co Clare

Archaeologists in County Clare believe they have discovered Ireland’s earliest surviving example of a timber framed house.

Dendrochronological analysis is expected to conclude that the timber structure at Chapel Lane, Parnell Street, Ennis, dates back to the late 16th century.

Ms. Irene Clune’s house, known as McParland’s, is long understood to have been the oldest inhabited house in the Clare County capital. The building’s triple diamond stone Jacobean chimney has been an icon of medieval Ennis for centuries.

The house was first inspected in 2008 by Clare County Council’s Conservation Officer, who recommended that the property undergo structural repair work. Following detailed technical analyses by the National Monuments Service and officials from Ennis Town Council and Consulting Conservation Engineers, it was concluded that the structure was unstable and represented a danger to the general public.

Ennis Town Council, using its statutory powers to deal with dangerous buildings, commenced a €170,000 project to make the building safe and to protect and restore the historic fabric of the structure. A grant of €85,000 was procured under the “Structures at Risk Scheme” from the Department of the Environment towards the restoration project.

During October 2011, the gable and chimney were carefully recorded, taken down and stored. At present the historic gable is being re-built using the original stones bedded in an authentic hydraulic-lime mortar, the floor of the house having been archaeologically excavated prior to this.

In recent weeks, archaeologists have discovered an oak frame structure which they have described as “potentially one of the most exciting urban archaeological discoveries in Ireland in recent years”.

Frank Coyne, Consultant Archaeologist from Aegis Archaeology Ltd, explained that the limited archaeological excavation has revealed a wealth of information.

“The existence of a foundation cut in the interior of the house indicates an earlier structure on the site, which is also borne out by the presence of large oak beams in the walls of the house. It is hugely significant that these beams are oak, which will enable us to use tree ring dating. If these prove to be of medieval date, which we believe is the case, then this means that this house is the only structure of its type in the county”, explained Mr. Coyne.

Commenting on the restoration project, Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Michael Guilfoyle, stated: “The works to McParland’s, when completed, will yield invaluable information on the traditional skills and construction techniques of Late Medieval Ennis. This work makes the building safe and protects a major piece of the history and character of Ennis. I have no doubt that the building will continue to be of tremendous interest to all those who have an appreciation of the importance of our heritage and the very fine examples of medieval architecture in the town.”

According to HTF Member David Humphreys of ACP Consultant Conservation Engineers, “Although built originally using crude rubble stone and weak mortar, the fact that this building has stayed intact up to the present is a tribute to the skills of the medieval masons, who possessed a great knowledge of their materials and confidence in their designs”.

Conservation Officer Dick Cronin noted that the present discoveries at McParland’s further enhance Ennis’ status as the most intact medieval town in Ireland.

Restoration work at McParland’s, Parnell Street, Ennis, Co Clare, is scheduled for completion in February 2012.

The Portas Review

At the end of 2008, the average town centre vacancy was under 6%, but at the end of 2010 it was 14.5%. If the decline continues at this rate in two years’ time almost a third of UK high streets will be standing empty.  So say studies carried out by the Deparment of Business and Innovation.

Mary Portas, star of shows such as Mary Queen of Shops and Mary Queen of Frocks has been asked by Government to advise on issues such as how to address the problem of vacant shops, prevent the proliferation of ‘clone towns’, and increase the number of small and independent retailers in local town centres.

Ms Portas is expected to finish her investigations by the end of the year and is due to report to Government on Tuesday 13 December.

Mary has received nearly 2,000 comments on her website from members of the public and high street retailers since the review began.

Findings from two HTF/EH workshops attended by a wide range of property professionals, retail practitioners and partnership organisations will also fed into the report.

High Street Review Out

According to ATCM studies, if the current highstreet decline continues almost a third of UK high streets will be standing empty in two years' time. So say studies carried out by Department of Businesses and Innovation.

Mary Portas, star of shows such as Mary Queen of Shops and Mary Queen of Frocks, has been asked to advise Government to advise on issues such as how to address the problem of vacant shops, prevent the proliferation of ‘clone towns’, and how to increase the number of small and independent retailers in local town centres.

Ms Portas is expected to finish her investigations by the end of the year and reported to Government on Tuesday 13 December.

Findings from two HTF/EH workshops attended by a wide range of property professionals, retail practitioners and partnership organisations fed into the report. 

The Portas Review was published on 13 December. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has announced that the Government will respond to the review in the Spring. For inclusion in the ATCM offical position please read the review and send your comments to Ojay.McDonald@atcm.org

An HTF conference on this subject will take place on 23 March. Register your interest.

Director's View - November Newsletter

It’s been an incredibly busy few months, here in the HTF offices. Normally we’d be winding down a little, taking stock, and planning for next year, but with so much going on in the ever-changing political landscape we’ve been holding extra requested events and continuing to be strong advocates for our part of the sector.

September saw us hold our first Social Media training event – a great success – led by James Mott of ProjectBook. While we ourselves have this year embraced the world of Social Media, it was fascinating and somewhat salutary to be shown by an expert how it should be done – and it’s led to greater online connection with our colleagues, members, and fellow practitioners. It also led to our first set of ‘storified’ tweets from our Annual Conference in York, in October ('Economic Vision in Historic Towns – planning and regeneration' [Members can see presentations here]) – tweets which were followed, seen and read by almost 7000   recipients according to James (who was monitoring this for us) – a figure which certainly underlines the power of Twitter! It was exciting also to see responses from members and others who had not been able to make the conference, but who were nevertheless engaging with the topics, the content and the speakers. If you are not yet on Twitter, or not yet following us, then please do so on @HTF_Director and @_HTF.

Following our Social Media event we held a joint workshop on how to respond to the National Planning Policy Framework consultation with Bath Preservation Trust. [View the presentations here]. This event was extremely well-attended and showed there is still a strong local call for top-down information in local areas – communities are eager to engage with planning, the Localism Bill and with the NPPF – and with the Bill having just received Royal Assent, now is the time to get active in your communities. How is the Bill going to affect you and what you want in your areas? Please do keep us informed of what is happening in your localities as we will be producing short, simple and useful guidance in the coming year – let us know what you would find most useful [Register your interest for Jan/Feb Localism event with BDB here].

In September and October we responded to the Mary Portas BIS High Street Review by holding two joint roundtable events with English Heritage, attended by leading figures from the retail and heritage sectors. This has fed directly into the Review [see response here] and will feed further into the revision of EH/HTF retail guidance as well as into an HTF retail seminar in February [register your interest here].

Which brings us to the New Year – 2012 will be a special year for many reasons – the Royal Jubilee, the 2012 Games, and the Historic Towns Forum’s 25th Anniversary! Watch this space for news on our March 16 English Tourism Week conference with VisitEngland, events with our patron, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and our inaugural 25th Anniversary Awards Ceremony. We thank you for your continued support and hope you will join us again next year to help make our 25th the best yet!

Members' Special Offer: Ancoats - cradle of industrialisation

Title Ancoats - cradle of industrialisation
Authors Keith Falconer, Mike Rose and Julian Holder
Publisher English Heritage in partnership with Heritage Works Buildings Preservation Trust
Published September 2011
ISBN 978-1-84802-027-6
Price £9.99 + p&p
HTF Members offer £8.99 inc. p&p 
(quote 'HTF11') Offer closes 30 November 2011
To order Telephone: 0845 458 9910 or Email: eh@centralbooks.com 
Ancoats, situated north east of Manchester on the Rochdale and Ashton canals, has an unique place in the history of both global industrialisation and urbanisation. In the 19th Century it was home to many multi-storied steam-driven cotton mills and this book details its rise and decline as an industrial powerhouse.
 
The book intends to raise awareness of the wide range and varied character of the historic mills, buildings and canals which constitute the Ancoats townscape, and the forces and trends which have contributed to its appearance. It outlines, through its buildings, how the area and its community have evloved over the last 250 years.
 
Planners and conservation officers dealing with regeneration issues will find this book of great interest.

Ancoats - cradle of industrialisation

Title Ancoats - cradle of industrialisation
Authors Keith Falconer, Mike Rose and Julian Holder
Publisher English Heritage in partnership with Heritage Works Buildings Preservation Trust
Published September 2011
ISBN 978-1-84802-027-6
Price £9.99 + p&p
HTF Members offer £8.99 inc. p&p 
(Members' Special Offer code) Offer closes 30 November 2011
To order Telephone: 0845 458 9910 or Email: eh@centralbooks.com 
Ancoats, situated north east of Manchester on the Rochdale and Ashton canals, has an unique place in the history of both global industrialisation and urbanisation. In the 19th Century it was home to many multi-storied steam-driven cotton mills and this book details its rise and decline as an industrial powerhouse.
 
The book intends to raise awareness of the wide range and varied character of the historic mills, buildings and canals which constitute the Ancoats townscape, and the forces and trends which have contributed to its appearance. It outlines, through its buildings, how the area and its community have evloved over the last 250 years.
 
Planners and conservation officers dealing with regeneration issues will find this book of great interest.

Business rate boost for planning teams

Planning minister Greg Clark has told councils that they could receive a financial boost through measures that would allow them to keep the business rates raised in their areas if they invest in their planning teams.

He said that local areas with councils that have efficient planning departments would be attractive to overseas businesses seeking to relocate in the UK. He suggested that Councils that ensure their planning departments are sufficiently resourced could therefore reap financial rewards through the revamped business rates system.

Read Jamie Carpenter's article in Planning, 13 October
 

Historic Environment: Local Authority Capacity (HELAC)

HELAC is a sector-wide initiative designed to explore ways of supporting local authorities to re-evaluate their historic environment services in line with budget reductions.

Pilot studies from Cheltenham, Chichester, Essex, Northumberland and the Cotswold area will shortly be published by English Heritage, showing the different approaches taken by areas in providing historic environment services. Although councils are not expected to mirror the decisions taken, given that conditions are unique to each area, they will find it helpful to examine the processes others have gone through. 

Find out more about HELAC

Talk with the Chief: Kersten England, City of York Council

In 1212 King John signed a charter allowing York’s citizens to collect and pay the annual tax to the Crown themselves and to hold their own courts to appoint a mayor.  Next year York 800 celebrates this with a year-long programme of events for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Kersten EnglandKersten England, Chief Executive of City of York Council, has an obvious passion for history which started in her early years: the daughter of a lecturer in architecture, she grew up in Edinburgh, studied in Chester and holds a degree in historical anthropology.

It is against this background of familiarity with historic towns that Kersten lives and breathes the heritage of the City of York, and finds this a constant factor in decision making. 

Kersten describes York as “a proud and independent place which likes to be in charge of its own affairs”, and one which is facing up to the challenge of cuts. The City Council maintains an archaeologist and a strong heritage team and although there has been an overall decline in planning applications a recent upturn in the last couple of months has added some pressure to the department.  This intensifies the enormous economic pressure York is already under to remove a quarter of base funding across the Council.  Rather than spread cuts across every function, the City Council is redesigning and reconfiguring all their services and is currently conducting numerous reviews. They are talking to neighbouring local authorities to find out where they can collaborate and share aspects of the planning function. 

The City Council, which until now has been housed in 15 different historic buildings, is moving to a more functional new building on the site of North East Railway (NER). Here it will benefit from back office savings, lower property costs and collaborative working as well as bringing down the Council’s carbon footprint.

Archaeological research is a fundamental part of any development taking place in an historic town or city, and York has yielded many important finds.  “Here are sedimentary layers of history dating back 2000 years which are still being uncovered [and] provide new excitement nearly every month, be it a gladiators graveyard, a silk cap from the Chinese silk route or an ancient toilet!” Kersten divulged.

In the development of the NER site many archaeological remains have been found, and as Kersten describes, it is as if “a golden thread of history can be seen moving from Roman times to the railway era and then right up to the 21st century local government provision of public services”.

The Shambles, YorkThe economy of the city is fortunate to have two dominant drivers centred on its history. Firstly there is the visitor and leisure economy which sees 7 million visitors each year and to which 200,000 jobs are directly and indirectly linked. And secondly there is the knowledge economy, underpinned by four FE/HE institutions: York College, Askham Bryan College, York St John University and the University of York.

The University of York has a strong commitment to academic research and is well placed to interpret the heritage of the City.  In addition the City is home to many important archives including the Minster archive and the Borthwick Institute, which has been awarded funds by HLF.

Conserving and promoting the heritage of York sits within these economic drivers, and the City of York strives to achieve the proper balance between development and conservation, an issue which has been highlighted in recent debate over the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the Localism Bill.

With the imminent passing of the Localism Bill and the push for more engagement with communities, York has a head start as “working with community groups and partnerships is part of DNA of York. There is a high level of civic activity and involvement, including participatory budgeting and allocation of moneys at neighbourhood level.”

Engagement with communities builds on existing strong networks, established by the Quakers' Rowntree Corporation and mutualism of the 19th century, and encompasses all dimensions of place, background and race: the demographic includes communities of interest, the voluntary sector and the church.

York was one of the first authorities to take on the process of asset transfer of community buildings, along with the particular issues associated with listed buildings, that many such transfers involve.

Having recently submitted their Core Strategy and a strong response to the National Planning Policy Framework consultation, Kersten considers the conundrum facing a Government which is “committed to economic growth but also committed to neighbourhoods being in charge of their own affairs”.  Kersten’s view is that these don’t always fit together and Government is struggling to find the right balance at which strategic responsibility for a place should be held. The current economic climate ”is like a state of emergency. We don’t have enough provision of housing supply and though we have stock sites that could be brought into use, if we also want to let locals have a real interest in what happens in their locality there are sure to be tensions, and then who arbitrates?” Kersten sees it is an extraordinarily difficult thing for the Government to resolve and they don’t yet have the answers.

Independent research to find how the whole city can be taken forward to secure economic growth, while maintaining what is special about York, is underway, led by The Fairness Commission with the Archbishop of York, Yorkshire Forward, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, University of York and Aviva. Results should be available in April 2012.

Although the LEPs do not have a remit over planning, the Leeds City Region LEP in which York sits looks at social, transport and housing planning as these are critical areas of responsibility.  More forceful discussion, which had taken place within the Regional Spatial Strategy, seems only just starting again at the community level.

Kersten has confidence in the support of the many active and skilled citizens, civic trusts and guilds who have the City’s heritage at heart, and also in the Councillors of York, whom she feels have taken on their responsibility as guardians of the social fabric.  Together they will endeavour to get the balance of growth and conservation right, with as little tension as possible.

Helen Johnson
HTF Marketing & Communications
November 2011

Talk with the Chief articles:
Geoff Rivers, St Edmundsbury Borough Council

Contact us to have your CEO featured in a Talk with the Chief

Welsh Government sets up planning review panel

A major review of how planning services in Wales should be delivered in the future has been announced by John Griffiths, Welsh Environment and Sustainable Development Minister. It will be conducted by an independent advisory group under the chairmanship of John Davies, former Welsh director of the Planning Inspectorate.

The purpose of the review is to:

  • Identify the key policy objectives that the planning system is required to deliver now and in the future;
  • Assess existing institutional delivery arrangements, noting areas of good practice and areas in need of improvement; and,
  • Propose options for the future delivery of the planning system, including plan making and development management services.

The group’s recommendations will form part of the evidence base for the Welsh Government’s proposed new Planning Bill.
Read more