August newsletter

August Newsletter


Director's Message

Welcome to our new look old look newsletter! We have responded to members who much preferred our previous article-style, rather than link-style newsletter, and so happy reading! This is a very full edition – there are several consultations to participate in and much to update you on. In particular please do look at the article on the Listed Buildings Consent consultation - we have only until the 23 August to respond. You can also see the results of the VAT campaign below – while Government made some concessions it was not the result we had hoped for but I hope you will be heartened to read that we have not given up – there is a new campaign to cut the VAT to 5%. Your support would be extremely welcome!

You will see we have more events on Practical Localism and Neighbourhood Planning in September, and we are repeating our popular Social Media course on September 18 in Oxford. We are also repeating our successful Community Asset Transfer Seminar on November 13 in Burslem, at the rather beautiful and historical School of Art, due to requests to hold it somewhere more northerly. So I do hope we will see you all again soon! Until then I hope you are enjoying the 2012 Olympic Games as much as we are in the office – coffee breaks are spent around the live-stream cheering on our Great British athletes. We have so much to be proud of culturally and historically – what could be more inspiring than seeing Bradley Wiggins receiving the gold medal in front of the backdrop of Hampton Court? I am so inspired I am off this week to volunteer at the mountain biking in Hadleigh Park, another wonderful site near to the historic Thames Gateway, where 19,000 spectators are expected each day. I hope each of you have found something to inspire you culturally over the period leading up to and including the Games – in spite of some concerns over traditional tourism and traffic infrastructure over this period is it a marvellous time to be British and we have really shown the world what we are made of – let’s make the most of the legacy that is to follow for our historic towns and cities!

Latest news

STOP PRESS: Reforms to Listed Building Consents system – consultation – please respond!

As part of the Penfold Review of Non-Planning Consents, DCMS has been working with CLG on proposed reform of the heritage-related non-planning consents. Some have already gone into the ERR Bill, but Government has committed to consultation on other possible reforms. The proposed changes may affect the management of the historic environment; please take this opportunity to respond to the consultation here. The consultation period ends on the 23 August so there is not much time.

The consultation sets out four options for change: a system of prior notification; a system of local and national class consents; a ‘certificate of lawful works to Listed Buildings’; and the replacement of local authority conservation officer recommendations for LBC by those made by accredited agents. The consultation also seeks views on enforcement mechanisms for buildings which have been put at risk through neglect, such as Repair Notices and Compulsory Purchase Orders; particularly those that have been on the Heritage at Risk Register for some time. Read more>>

To help organisations respond to the consultation within the short time frame, English Heritage will be hosting two identical briefing and discussion events on the 9 and 16 August at 1 Waterhouse Square, Holborn, between 2 and 4pm. Anyone wishing to attend is asked to contact with a preferred date.

National Planning Policy Framework

On 20 June the HTF, sponsored by Terrence O’Rourke Ltd, held a lively and timely conference on the topic of The National Planning Policy Framework: Planning for Growth in Towns and Historic Cities. This well-received event was held in historic Salisbury, and included speakers from English Heritage, Terrence O’Rourke Ltd, the Historic Towns Forum, Chichester Cathedral, Winchester City Council, Winchester Civic Trust and Salisbury Civic Society.

While the Government’s new agenda affects all aspects of planning, a particular challenge is how to reconcile a pro development national policy framework with the conservation of those qualities of our historic towns and cities that make them successful places in which to live, work and play. See the event presentations here. A conference report will be available shortly. Please check back!

Community Right to Challenge comes into force

Communities will now be able to bid to take over local services. A Community Rights website has been launched to give people more information about the new powers and opportunities available to them. Practical help and guidance for those wishing to use the Community Right to Challenge is now available on the Community Rights website. A dedicated phone line for support is also now available on 0845 345 4564. Read more.

On 31 May the HTF, sponsored by partners, Bircham Dyson Bell, held a successful and vibrant event focusing on Community Asset Transfer. Prominent speakers from the HTF, Bircham Dyson Bell, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, the Asset Transfer Unit, the Association of Preservation Trusts, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, the Church’s Conservation Trust and Oxford Preservation Trust explained the legalities and practicalities of community asset transfer under the Localism Act, and what this could mean for communities wishing to take over capital assets. The event was so popular that we will be repeating it on November 13 at the Burslem School of Art. Watch this space! View the presentations here.

VAT Campaign – Addressing borderline anomalies – section 7 – 'Approved alterations to listed buildings'

By now you will probably be aware that in spite of u turns on pasties and caravans, the Government refused to back down on proposed changes to the VAT relief on approved alterations to listed buildings. As a result, the zero rate of VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings will now be removed from 01 October this year following an amendment to the Finance Bill that was approved by MPs on 03 July.

Although the Government made two significant concessions, the campaign, ultimately, was unsuccessful. The concessions were:

  • The Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme was extended to cover repairs as well as alterations, and was increased by £30m, which the Government says will provide 100% compensation to listed places of worship; and
  • Significant improvements in the transitional arrangements designed to protect projects already underway, whereof owner who have applied for Listed Building Consent before 21 March 2012 will still be eligible for the zero rate until 01 October 2015;

Government defence to the relief cut ignored the robust evidence put forward by the Heritage Sector. The HTF campaigned on your behalf, working closely with the Federation of Master Builders, the Heritage Alliance, the IHBC, and many others, and were joint signatories on prominent letter to the Chancellor, the Times, and the Telegraph, among other communications.

Thanks to all of you who joined in the movement with letter to MPs and so on – the fight is not yet over and  although we have lost a battle there is  a new main campaign to Cut the VAT (5% on all residential repair, maintenance and improvement work) – the HTF is on the website as a supporter. Please show your support also and visit the Cut the VAT website.


Debbie Dance, HTF's Chair, spoke at the 2012 China-UK Cultural Heritage Forum in China, on 'Heritage and Tourism' by highlighting the contribution heritage and historic towns make to the UK economy. Read more >>

High Streets and Town Centres

HTF invited to contribute to DCLG publication

The HTF was recently approached to advise and contribute content to the new DCLG publication, Re-imaging urban spaces to help revitalise our high streets. Two prominent members of the HTF Executive, Steven Bee of Steven Bee Urban Counsel, and Brian Human, of BRH Associates, obliged and you can read the results by clicking on the link above.

Ipswich is awarded Purple Flag status

The Ipswich Society (HTF members) have announced that Ipswich has been awarded Purple Flag status for their night time offer. Purple Flag is the new accreditation scheme that recognises excellence in the management of town and city centres at night, and is a good measure of a successful night time economy. Congratulations to Ipswich, and to the Community Safety Partnership, which has been instrumental in achieving this award.

Second wave of ‘Portas Pilots’ announced

A second group of towns in England have been selected to run pilot schemes based on the Government-commissioned Mary Portas report on improving high street vitality. Read more>>

On 23 March, the HTF, sponsored by Bircham Dyson Bell, held a well-attended (and somewhat heated!) event in light of the changes suggested by the Portas review. Retail, the high street review and the revivification of historic cores included high profile speakers from CLG, New Anglia LEP, Lincoln BIG, ATCM, VisitEngland, English Heritage, CgMs, Land Securities, HTF, Plus Urban Design, the British Parking Association, the LGA, Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners and focused on the perennial issue of the future of the high street within historic cores. View the presentations here.


The Canal and River Trust (CRT) has now officially launched, marking the largest transfer in the UK state-owned infrastructure to the charitable sector, with over 2000 miles of canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks in trust for the people of England and Wales. It brings together the third largest collection of Listed structures in the country, as well as the museums, collections and archives of the former Waterways Trust.

266m transport boost for green growth and infrastructure

Towns and cities across England are set to benefit from major transport schemes boosting green growth. Read more>>

Speaking to HRH The Prince of Wales

Vanessa Gregory, a staunch and long-serving HTF member, had the honour to give a speech to HRH The Prince of Wales and guests at St James's Palace in May 2012 to the Prince's Foundation. You can view Vanessa's speech here.

HTF Director invited to Jubilee Garden Party

On 29 May 2012 Noël James, HTF Director, attended the Royal Jubilee Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. She was invited to meet our Patron, HRH Price Charles the Prince of Wales, whereupon they discussed the work of the Forum, and how the Forum could work together with the Prince’s built environment charities. Noël reports that she was ‘utterly charmed, rather star struck, and even a little smitten’, while being thoroughly impressed by the scale of the event, the beauty of the surroundings and the dignity and style of the Royal Family. Although not planned, she also had an impromptu chat with the Duchess of Cambridge about hats and shoes, which apparently was ‘equally satisfying’.

The Prince of Wales Medal for Philanthropy – nominations open

Nominations are now open for The Prince of Wales Medal for Philanthropy. Inaugurated in 2008, the medal is awarded to five individuals or couples every year, and recognises a sustained contribution to the nation’s cultural life, either over a period of time, or as a major gift. The deadline for nominations is 06 September.

Walk the World with the Olympics

As part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad's Discovering Places campaign, join the challenge to find international connections which take you around the world without leaving the UK and put your local town on the map. Find out more >>

Can you help?

The HTF has received a request to let members know that an interesting collection of architectural books is for sale. The collection had belonged to a parish priest, late in the Diocese of Peterborough, and has now been catalogued for sale by his son. Architecture was his lifelong passion, and the library is extensive. The seller is avowed not to sell the collection by foot to second-hand book buyers and wondered if any HTF members might be interested in the collection. You can view it here.

The West Berkshire Heritage Forum, in conjunction with HTF members West Berkshire Council, have agreed in principle to undertake local listing of its heritage assets under the provisions of its Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework. The Heritage Forum is hoping to do this is a novel way, by recruiting a Selection Panel of eminent outside experts in various fields who will adjudicate on the merits of each proposal to list an asset. The Heritage Forum is asking HTF members if they would nominate someone local to West Berkshire with the appropriate qualifications and experience to serve on the panel. If you are able or would like to nominate someone, please contact the HTF in the first instance at

New project seeks to understand the value of culture

This AHRC-funded project, directed by Professor Geoffrey Crossick, recently Vice Chancellor of the University of London, seeks to address exactly what makes culture of value to societies and individuals. Defining what makes culture of value and how it shapes our lives, our places, our work, our thoughts and our feelings has been a topic of continuing interest to those who work in any of the cultural sectors, including heritage. It has never been an easy topic to define. The project will aim to define aspects of this through the collection of robust evidence, and in so doing shape policy and stimulate public debate.

For more information contact Philip Pothen on 01793 416022 The HTF will be sharing its views; particularly around how culture and cultural values shape place-making.

Design Council CABE – new programme launched to support community-led design

Design Council CABE is looking for potential partners to help with their Design Your Neighbourhood programme, which aims to help communities improve design in their neighbourhoods. Design Your Neighbourhood will work by linking local groups with local design support partners with expertise in architecture, planning, design and engineering.

If you would like to enter an expression of interest to be a design support partner you will need to be: a non-profit organisation; based in England; able to provide professional expertise in architecture, planning and/or design; and have the capacity to work with a local community group on a planning and design project between September 2012 and March 2013. Support partners will receive grant funding from Design Council CABE up to a value of around £10, 000 in order to work with a nominated community group. Read more>>

Civic Voice appoints new Director

Civic Voice has appointed Steve Graham as its new interim Director. Steve will work part-time for Civic Voice for the next 6 months. Steve has considerable experience in award-winning sustainable development, as well as working previously with the UN, the WWF, and on policy work with DEFRA.

Chair of Civic Voice, Paula Ridley, is ‘looking forward to working with Steve’, and is ‘delighted that his wide experience of the sector and enthusiasm for our work will give Civic Voice the best possible chance of a stable future.’ Steve added that he is ‘very much looking forward to working with the Board and members in taking Civic Voice to the next level and feel it’s a real privilege to be asked to fulfil the role of Director.’ The Historic Towns Forum wishes Steve all the best in his quest to continue the sterling work of Civic Voice. More here>>

Do you need training in fundraising? The Heritage Alliance could help you!

The Heritage Alliance and the Institute of Fundraising are working together to find the best ways to provide support, information and training for the heritage sector in fundraising. They would be grateful if you could take the time to fill out this short online questionnaire. For further information, please contact , The Heritage Alliance’s Philanthropy Programme Director.

New Website for Heritage Open Days

See the lovely new HOD website for information on this year’s Heritage Open Days (6-9 September). More here>>

Archived Regional Development Agency information

In accordance with Government policy, all Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) closed on 31 March 2012 and were abolished on 01 July 2012. Prior to this, RDAs transferred a range of assets, liabilities, functions and activities – including ongoing project responsibilities – to other public sector bodies. To find out where to access this, and the transferred legacy of economic information, read more>>

Events and seminars

Practical Localism

10 September, Leicester; and 24 September, London

We are holding two afternoon seminars that will look at the practicalities of Localism almost a year since it became law. What is the connection between a Neighbourhood Forum and a National Plan, a Local Plan, and a Neighbourhood Plan? Who is responsible for it? Should you be involved?

Social Media

17 September, Oxford

We are offering an all-day course to help you and your organisation get the most from social media. Used correctly, social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin can be extremely effective marketing tools. Easy step by step processes will show you how to participate fully in the social media revolution. With more and more people ‘joining the conversation’ now really is the time to get engaged and make social media work for your organisation. Click here to book a place


You can view HTF responses to past consultations here.

Publications and toolkits

The Value of England’s Past – new research by the London School of Economics and English Heritage proves value of Conservation areas

Houses in conservation areas sell at a premium and show a greater appreciation in value than those in other areas. This is even after adjusting for the effects of the kind of property involved and where it is located. These are just some of the findings of the first, rigorous, large-scale analysis of the effects of conservation areas on house prices in England, recently published by English Heritage. For full details of the research click here. For further information please contact: beth.mchattie@english-heritage or

Government changes how it consults with stakeholders and the public

New guidance on Consultation Principles has been published by Government, and will replace the previous Consultation Code of Practice. This will take effect from the autumn. Read more>>

Two publications launched on placed-based approach to local distinctiveness

English Heritage and City of Lincoln Council have launched two reports, 'Plans in Place: Taking a local approach to character in Lincoln', and 'Historic Townscape Characterisation - The Lincoln Townscape Assessment: A Case Study' that together outline a local approach to capitalising on the inherited character of places. Read more >>

Community asset tools by Locality

Locality has launched two new online tools to help local people understand and use the new rights relate to community assets contained within the Localism Act 2011. The Place Station enables users to map land and buildings that are of value to local residents, and encourages private sector practitioners to offer support to help get projects started. The Building Calculator offers communities the professional knowledge to calculate the long-term costs of a building. It uses the most up-to-date buildings component data, and employs the Whole Life Costing methodology used by surveyors and construction professionals. This easy-to-use tool enables communities to plan ahead for future building maintenance and replacement costs. Read more>>

Engaging places

Engaging Places is a web-based resource that provides a variety of teaching materials, lesson plans and is vital in supporting built environment education across the UK. They would like your help to make the web resource more user-friendly. You can do so by completing this short survey.

English Heritage Guidance

Historic Environment Local Management: English Heritage Guidance.

DCMS: Taking Part Survey – England’s survey of leisure, culture and sport

The latest results from the Taking Part Survey show record levels of engagement since the survey began in 2005/6. The survey reveals that 74.3% of adults visited a heritage site in the last year. This is an increase of 3.6% since 2010/11, with just under a third reporting they visit a heritage site at least three or four times a year. Read More>>

HTF membership

We invite professionals working in the historic built environment to join the membership. We welcome the following new members to HTF:

  • The Kenilworth Society
  • Tim Murphy
  • The Theatres Trust
  • WRS Insurance Brokers
  • Bysouth Consultants

If you would like to join us, please visit this link to our website for membership benefits.


About us

The Historic Towns Forum (HTF) has been supporting professionals and other members working in the historic built environment since 1987. Why not become a member?



Follow us


If you would prefer to no longer receive these e-mails please
e-mail including 'unsubscribe' in the subject line.


Sent from: Historic Towns Forum, P. O. Box 22, Bristol, BS16 1RZ; Tel: 0117 9750459