Reading’s Civic Centre approved for demolition

The demolition of the Civic Centre in Reading, opened in 1976, followed by the Hexagon in 1977, has been approved by the council.

The BBC writes:
The 1970s concrete building will be vacated over the coming few weeks.  But the planning committee confirmed the nearby Hexagon theatre, also built in the 70s, would not be demolished during redevelopment of the area.

Council leader Jo Lovelock said: ‘The Hexagon is remaining and there will be an interim plan giving the place a bit of a facelift.’ 

Just under 1,000 staff members based in the Civic Centre will move in phases, with the aim that the building will be empty by 15 December.

The council said the £25m move to its new base in Bridge Street was cheaper than the £100m renovation work that would have been needed at the Civic Centre.

The building was ‘at the end of its design life’ a council spokesman said, and has asbestos, which made it increasingly expensive to maintain.

Redevelopment plans for the site were announced in 2012.

Proposals will be drawn up for a mixed residential and retail development on the site, which includes Hosier Street.

BBC news 

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Scotland’s SURF: Manifesto for regeneration

Scotland’s Independent Regeneration Network (SURF) is beginning the process of developing a collaborative manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.

SURF writes:
Throughout 2015, we will be using our various networks, processes and events to discuss perspectives on specific manifesto proposals. We will also be holding a regeneration hustings event in the Scottish Parliament in Spring 2016.

View the article on the manifesto and its intended structure on the website

IHBC NewsBlogs on regeneration

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Cambridgeshire wind turbines refused

The Communities Secretary has refused a development of six wind turbines in Cambridgeshire, citing the potential visual impact on the setting of a listed thatch cottage, and harm to the setting of conservation areas as reasons for refusal.

Matters of particular interest to those considering the effects of development on heritage assets include the following statements within the decision notice:

  • ‘the 6 turbine scheme would result in just less than substantial harm to the setting of some listed buildings and in particular to the setting of Bythorn Church and Scotts Farmhouse. It would also result in some but lesser harm to Keyston Church and to the setting of other listed buildings within the Bythorn Conservation Area, minor harm to the setting of Molesworth Church, and minor or negligible harm to the setting of other listed buildings’(para 28)
  • the harm caused by the 6 turbine scheme to the significance of Bythorn Conservation Area falls just below the level of substantial harm but is nonetheless significant. (para 30)
  • ..some harm would arise from seeing the moving turbine blades incongruously above the roof of a listed thatched cottage in a typically traditional rural village setting (para 30).

Download the full decision notice 

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Brighton Hippodrome Campaign Continues

The Argus has reported that the campaign for retaining the Brighton Hippodrome as a theatre continues, despite Brighton and Hove Council approving the redevelopment and conversion into a leisure complex.

Argus recent article 1 and article 2

IHBC newsblogs on the Hippodrome

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DCLG’s ‘Infographic’ on Neighbourhood Planning

DCLG have produced an animated infographic showing the uptake of neighbourhood planning across England from July 2013 to the present. 

DCLG infographic

DCLG homepage for neighbourhood planning 

IHBC newsblogs on neighbourhood planning 

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Planning Consent Applications (Contracts) Bill proposed

A private members bill involving ‘a contract with the relevant planning authority’ has been proposed by Nigel Evans under the Ten Minute Rule (SO No 23), which received its first reading in the House of Commons on 10 December, with a second planned for 6 March.

Parliament.uk presents a summary of the bill as follows:
A Bill to require applicants for planning consent to enter into a contract with the relevant planning authority setting out certain undertakings relating to the application for planning consent; to provide that failure to meet those undertakings would result in withdrawal of any planning consent granted; and for connected purposes.

Bill documentation 

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Cabinet Office’s GII Sunningdale Park for sale

Grounds, land and property at Sunningdale, formally owned by the Cabinet Office (which includes a Grade II listed mansion) is now for sale, with a planning brief issued to outline development options for the site. 

Planning documentation for Sunningdale

Info boards & exhibition materials

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Explore stories behind museum architecture at #MusBuilding

Culture Themes (a group of museum professionals) recently held a twitter day urging museum managers and members of the public who have an interest in architecture to share stories and pictures relating to the architecture of museums, with the hashtag #musbuilding.

View a selection of the submitted images and stories (with no need to have a Twitter account to access)

CultureThemes blog

IHBC newsblogs on museums

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IHBC welcomes… ‘IHBC+’ (‘IHBC plus’): experimental evolution encouraging new volunteers

Following almost unanimous agreement at the IHBC’s most recent Council meeting, starting in January 2015 the Institute will explore alternative governance structures aimed at helping volunteers get more involved under a programme entitled ‘IHBC+’ (pronounced IHBC plus), which includes:

  • an expanded advisory Council – ‘Council+’(Council plus) – which will almost double the current size of our Council by including more Branch nominees and other co-optees, and
  • a more focussed and more regular gathering of trustees – our current Council, coming together in person or online – to focus on trustees’ core duties to monitor resources and deliver on our plans.

IHBC President Trefor Thorpe said: ‘The precise arrangements for the future governance of the Institute will be tested under this plan for IHBC+, a plan that we are very consciously describing as ‘experimental evolution’.  This testing will allow us to explore alternative support and management processes without the need to change our constitution.  That way we will know just what we want to do when we are ready to do it. This is a careful plan that, like all good conservation projects, recognises the importance both of precautionary principles and reversibility!’

‘The key element of the plan is the expansion of Council to include a much more broadly-based body of representation and opinion.  Hopefully this will be capable of responding to the full range of aims and objectives we have seen in our recent member surveys, whilst also reducing the scale of time commitment.  This should encourage more of you to participate in the important work of strengthening our organisation and keeping it at the forefront of the field in which we operate.’

‘And it is not the first time we have approached challenging structural changes in this way.  In 2005 we introduced the institute’s 5 new management committees – those covering all our activities from finance to outreach – but we test-ran the new structures before undertaking constitutional consolidation in 2007.  That way we made sure we did that job just the once, effectively and at the lowest cost.  I’m delighted to say that we’re able to build on the success of those Committees and strategies in the plans we’re following here, but clearly on a much more ambitious scale!’

IHBC Chair Mike Brown said: ‘We’ve been grappling with constitutional structures for more than 5 years now and I’m delighted that we now have a plan, supported by our Council, that allows us to move forward.’

‘The new arrangements recognise in the first instance the feedback we’re getting from our members through our surveys, where we have heard of their ambitions for our institute, and their interest in getting more involved.’

‘But they also recognise the substantial new pressures on our existing management and governance, pressures that have been generated by our success: increased membership, business expansion and ever-new ambitions.’

‘But as the IHBC looks to an even more ambitious future, so too we need a better handle on our own operations, and the IHBC+ programme will help us explore how best to do that.’

‘With the principle of experimental evolution now agreed, we can get down to the details.  It will take a little time to filter out of course, so for now, think about how you might get more involved in our work and register your interest with the local Branch.’

For more information:
Interim details of the new arrangements agreed at the IHBC’s Council are available from your Branch representative (see the IHBC’s website or our Yearbook for contact details).

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‘Most ambitious legislation ever’ for Wales?

The Welsh Government have this week further debated matters affecting the sustainable development of the country, to be introduced in the ‘Well-being of Future Generations’ Bill, described as ‘perhaps the most ambitious piece of legislation that the Welsh Government has ever attempted’. 

The Welsh Government writes:
A Welsh Government Bill which sets long-term goals to make a difference to the lives of future generations is perhaps the most ambitious piece of legislation that the Welsh Government has ever attempted.

That was the message from Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant speaking ahead of a debate on the Well-being of Future Generations Bill. The Bill, which was introduced by the Welsh Government in July, sets out a series of proposals which will put a duty on public bodies to look at the effect of policies on the long-term well-being of people and their communities in their decision-making.

The Minister said the Bill had the capacity to make a significant impact on the way our children and children’s children live. He said the legislation will require a fundamental shift in how public bodies and government tackle the big challenges the nation faces.

Carl Sargeant said: ‘There have been criticisms that the Bill is ‘too aspirational’ or that it creates an ‘unnecessary bureaucratic system’. This is not right. The Bill does not set up another layer of decision making or new governance arrangements, but instead strengthens those that already exist. It will only become bureaucratic if organisations see this as a ‘bolt on’ exercise, which is precisely what this Bill seeks to avoid.  It will take time to achieve the shift in the way many of us think and work, but the problems that we are trying to tackle are long-term problems. In short, it will mean that we in the public service in Wales look to the long-term so that our children and grandchildren do not look back on us and regret the decisions we made.’

The National Conversation on The Wales We Want identified climate change, the natural environment, jobs and skills as the biggest issues facing future generations in Wales.  The Bill will put into law six clear, integrated, well-being goals for Wales. They are for a prosperous; resilient; healthier; more equal Wales; with cohesive communities; and a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. A Commissioner for Future Generations in Wales will support public bodies in making better, more sustainable choices, and safeguard the well-being of future generations in Wales.

Carl Sargeant added: ‘We’re bringing in this new law so that our public services work to a single, shared, aim – to improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of Wales.  This legislation means that, for the first time, public bodies listed in the Bill must work towards achieving our shared well-being goals; it’s not just up to the NHS to make Wales healthier, all of our public services have a part to play. We should not be leaving our problems for the next generation to solve.

‘Wales is not unique in trying to do this, but we are ahead of the game. Next year the United Nations General Assembly will agree a new set of Sustainable Development Goals for the post 2015 development agenda. We have been keeping abreast of the international developments to ensure that what we do in Wales mirrors that at the UN level.’ 

Bill documentation

News release

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Historic Environment Scotland Bill receives Royal Assent

The Historic Environment Scotland Bill received Royal Assent on 9 December, which will now lead to Historic Environment Scotland being formed.

Full legislation text

Bill’s progress and previous amendments

IHBC NewBlogs on the HES bill

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Government re-launches Green Deal with £30m boost

The Government is to make a further £30m available to help make homes in England and Wales more energy efficient.

Localgov writes:
The latest phase of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund will see households able to access up to £5,600 to pay for measures with £24m earmarked for solid wall insulation and the remainder for measures such as double glazing and new boilers.

It forms part of the £100m boost to the scheme announced in October and will be open to applications from Wednesday.

More than 20,000 households have received help since the Fund was launched in June.

Energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey said: ‘The best way people can cut their energy bills, this winter and every winter, is to improve their homes so that they leak less heat and use less energy. That’s why we’ve increased the funding available for the Green Deal to help even more people start saving money sooner.’

Richard Twinn, policy and public affairs officer at the UK Green Building Council, said: ‘Full marks to Government for listening to industry and making sensible changes to the fund.

‘A more robust application process is likely to result in fewer speculative applications and prevent the feeding frenzy witnessed last summer. Ring fenced funding will also stop the fund being completely swallowed up by the most expensive energy saving measures.

‘However, this is still a finite pot of funding that will create uncertainty for both householders and industry when it inevitably runs dry.’

UK Local Gov article

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Gregory’s Girl School flattened

DEMOLITION work has begun on Abronhill High School, the school made famous in Gregory’s Girl.

Latest News writes:
Abronhill High School was the backdrop for Bill Forsyth’s coming of age romantic comedy.

The low-budget film starring John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Hepburn and Clare Grogan was a huge success.

And it transformed the Cumbernauld school and its red ash football pitch in to a movie landmark.

Abronhill High opened in 1978 and was earmarked for closure in 2012.

BBC Scotland Gregory’s Girl stars John Gordon Sinclair and Calire Grogan outside Abronhill High School in Cumbernauld where the film was shot.

Despite protests it closed to pupils in June and children will now go to Cumbernauld High.

Video of the works

EU news

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Kerslake Review findings on Birmingham City Council

The Kerslake Review – an independent report commissioned by The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in July) -has now been published calling for ‘a simplified planning framework this should flow from the City Plan’ as part of its critique of Birmingham City Council governance.

Of particular interest to IHBC members may be the report discussions on city planning, where the report states that ‘Birmingham City Council should develop a simplified planning framework this should flow from the City Plan (recommendation 3b)’.  The report also states that the City Council ‘urgently needs a new model of devolution that enables services to be delivered within the resources available and provides more powerful community engagement’ (para 6). 

DCLG writes:
Sir Bob Kerslake, the chief civil servant at the Department for Communities and Local Government, has called for sweeping changes in how the authority is run to ensure Birmingham maintains its status as Britain’s second city rather than fall behind competitors such as Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.

Sir Bob’s report finds that Birmingham residents and businesses are not getting the best from a council that lacks a clear vision for the city and has failed to tackle deep rooted problems such as low skills and economic growth.  The report warns the authority is not doing enough to:

  • provide consistently good quality services for residents
  • help its economic partners to grow the local economy or ensure low-skilled residents get the training they need to work
  • provide leadership and set out a positive vision for the city
  • improve a culture of sweeping problems under the carpet or blaming them on others rather than tackling them head on

Sir Bob also concluded that successive administrations in Birmingham had failed to collectively take the big decisions needed to address problems faced by the city, such as in its finances and children’s services.

Sir Bob said: ‘Birmingham is a really great place and its people deserve the best possible services. The country also needs a thriving second city.  However, over several years the council has failed to resolve its financial issues and the poor performance of its children’s services or to respond to the large number of people in the city with low skills. Collectively, despite the thriving physical regeneration of the city centre, this has held the city back.  A stronger Birmingham matters most to those who live and work there, but it is also a matter of national importance. Birmingham’s economy has underperformed – not just compared to London but to Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield.  In carrying out this review, I have spoken with those who know Birmingham best and their views have formed the basis of my findings. People have said to me, Birmingham can’t carry on as it is now. Things have to change and they have to change quickly. This report presents an opportunity for Birmingham to turn the dial and improve its performance but the city should be in no doubt as to the risks if it doesn’t.’

With 120 members, Birmingham is among the largest authorities in England, with 15 of its 20 wards having the biggest populations in the country. The report found that the large number of councillors and the rapidly growing size of the city meant effective representation of residents was a challenge.

Sir Bob recommends a change in the electoral cycle to give Birmingham residents the chance to vote for the whole council every 4 years from 2017 – rather than the current system which splits local elections into returning a third of the authority every year. This, the report argues, would allow councillors to better focus on the long-term vision for Birmingham and improve engagement in elections by residents.  The report advises against breaking up Birmingham but warns the issue will return unless there are improvements. Instead it highlights the lack of strategic leadership and too much blurring of the lines in the day to day running of the council’s services as being bigger issues of concern.

The review welcomes the recent proposal to form a combined authority but states that there is a lot of ground to make up.  In his review, Sir Bob also calls for an independent improvement panel to be established to ensure Birmingham City Council delivers on the report’s recommendations. The panel would report back to the Secretary of State for Local Government in December 2015, on Birmingham’s progress.  The report also calls for a new employment and skills initiative in Birmingham charged with helping to help train low skilled adults in some of the most deprived wards, to ensure they can benefit from the city’s growth. In particular, the report calls for targeted skills training to start with Sparkhill and Washwood Heath. 

Download the full report

Ministerial statement to Parliament on the Birmingham report

IHBC NewsBlog on Birmingham 

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