Civic Voice highlights local projects and initiatives
Civic Voice was formed a decade ago following the closure of the Civic Trust. As the national organisation for civic societies, it now connects and represents a network of over 130 member societies and groups, as well as thousands of individuals. The Brighton Society was a founding member and has always valued the diligent and dynamic work undertaken by the organisation, which is modestly resourced. Firmly committed to the needs and interests of its members, Civic Voice highlights local projects and initiatives, while at the same time maintaining an ambitious national platform to involve and represent its membership, as well as preparing studies and reports, staging events, and establishing communication channels with national and local government and other relevant institutions. Below is our brief résumé of selected topics covered in their recent updates and publicity, some of which reflect significant current concerns of the Brighton Society.
In view of the UN’s report on climate change and sustainable goals, the expected government planning bill and looking towards the Civic Voice AGM in October, CV wants to build a meaningful conversation with its network on the place of the civic society movement in the role played by local communities and planning in relation to climate change.
Permitted Development Rights
Working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies, CV is launching a study consulting and involving local societies in monitoring and assessing the practical impact of the government’s new order extending permitted development rights to allow change of use from ‘high street’ to residential. CV is also using the study to inform its response to the Housing & Local Government select committee’s call on the government to pause the introduction of the new right, from which listed buildings but not conservation areas are excepted.
CV has welcomed the new House of Lords Built Environment Committee’s inquiry into housing demand in the UK, having held a recent discussion with the Housing & Local Government Committee on their report ‘The future of the Planning System in England’.
Urban Design Quality
The government has launched a new Office for Place to support the making of “high quality” places; amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework include requirements of local authorities to prepare design guides or codes “for creating beautiful and distinctive places”. This was quickly followed by a research report by the Place Alliance, ‘The Design Deficit’, examining skills and practices in England’s local authorities. Civic groups have consistently told CV that local authority resourcing is a key concern over the government’s proposals for planning reform.
Article 4 Directions
A revision in the National Planning Policy Framework published in late July changes the policy on Article 4 directions to make it harder for local authorities to implement new directions, requiring them to be based on robust evidence and to apply to the smallest geographical area possible. CV had objected to the proposal as the bar to implementing an A4D was already high, and the change will undermine local authorities’ ability to manage their areas and to prevent harmful or inappropriate development. In principle, until now directions could be applied to town centre features, in effect a means of addressing the issue of permitted development rights.
[In Brighton & Hove, approximately forty A4Ds are in force, many relating to type and colour of paint on groups of listed buildings; a few protect certain details of buildings to preserve the character of their particular neighbourhoods.]