APPG for civic societies to make the case for the historic environment

Civic Voice, the national charity for the civic society movement, held the first meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Civic Societies on 16 November. 

Civic Voice writes:
The launch, which saw Craig Mackinlay MP proposed and elected to the position of Chair, also decided upon some of key themes for discussion for the group throughout meetings during the coming year.  The inaugural meeting also instated William Wragg MP, Natascha Engel MP and Cat Smith MP into officer roles.

The recommendations from the meetings concluded that the groups aim over the next 6 months should be to focus on the historic environment. The meetings during the coming year should specifically reference the impact of the loss of conservation staff, the importance of community involvement in local heritage listing and the impact of development on Cathedral cities.

Ian Harvey, Executive Director for Civic Voice, said ‘The first meeting of our All Party Parliamentary Group is a really exciting and interesting occasion. As an organisation who values collaboration and who makes the most of the collective strengths of the movement, we are always excited to add new expertise to our group and look forward to working with Craig and others to make the case for the historic environment in the coming months.’

He added ‘We are fortunate that our movement will now include the breadth of knowledge offered by our Chair, Craig Mackinlay MP and also our Vice-Chair, William Wragg MP’

Craig Mackinlay, newly elected Chair of the APPG, commented ‘The conclusions drawn by the meeting are for the group to focus on the impact of the loss of conservation staff, the importance of a community voice when protecting the local historic environment and the future of Cathedral cities. I now call on all communities across the country to tell their MP to join the All Party Group and to give Civic Voice examples of what is happening to your local historic environment. We will debate these issues in future meetings.’

Civic Voice news

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The SPAB’s National Maintenance Week: 20-27 November

Broadcaster Neil Oliver is leading this year’s campaign by the SPAB to make people aware of the importance of winter property maintenance, the annual National Maintenance Week campaign which encourages owners of all sorts of buildings (not just ancient ones) to be aware of the importance of regular care.

The SPAB writes:
It’s a message that’s relevant to home owners and to anyone who cares for a property. In 2015 the week takes place from November 20 to November 27. 

Top 10 tips for National Maintenance Week:

  • Look for blocked downpipes (best done during heavy rain to see water coming from any leaky joints – in dry weather look for stained brickwork)
  • Check ground level gullies and drains to make sure they are clear of debris like leaves, twigs and even things like balls and toys – and have them cleaned out if necessary
  • Every autumn, clear any plants, leaves and silt from gutters, hopperheads, flat roofs and drainage channels. It’s a good idea to do this in spring too to deal with anything that might have found its way into the wrong place
  • Remove potentially damaging vegetation from behind downpipes by cutting back or removing the plant altogether
  • Use a hand mirror to look behind rainwater pipes as splits and cracks in old cast iron and aluminium often occur here and are not easily noticed
  • Fit bird/leaf guards to the tops of soil pipes and rainwater outlets to prevent blockages
  • Have gutters refixed if they are sloping the wrong way or discharging water onto the wall
  • If sections are beyond repair, make sure that replacements are made of the same material as the originals (on older houses, this is sometimes lead, but more usually cast iron)
  • Regular painting of cast iron is essential to prevent rust – and keeps your property looking good!
  • Don’t – undertake routine maintenance work at high level unless you are accompanied and have suitable equipment.  If in doubt always seek help from a professional

Remember to take care at all times, wear protective gloves when necessary and never work at heights or use ladders if you are alone. 

View more information

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£4m to £40m: European Funding for Scottish cities

The Scottish Government has announced a new initiative which has resulted in £40 million of European investment into Scottish Cities, including funding for local empowerment initiatives. 

The Scottish government writes:
Scottish Government investment in cities is delivering tenfold, with £4 million bringing £40 million in return, Deputy First Minister John Swinney today revealed.

Mr Swinney highlighted figures that show the Scottish Cities Alliance, a partnership between Scotland’s seven cities and the Scottish Government, has secured £40 million of investment, including £10 million of European Funding to support smart city initiatives.

Speaking today (Friday) at the Scottish Governments Cities Convention in Perth, Mr. Swinney said: ‘The strength of our cities as drivers of growth is clearly indicated by today’s figures that show that the Scottish Cities Alliance, through partnership working, has secured over 10 times the amount of investment provided by the Scottish Government. This is a good return by anyone’s standards and one which we can be proud of. These investments are delivering major improvements to business connectivity and providing better links between our cities and centres of economic growth. This is a long-term approach and I have every confidence that there will be more to come in future years.’

The Convention – a Scottish Government-led initiative – brings together representatives from Scotland’s seven cities, and will include discussions around local empowerment and the best ways to ensure our cities are great places to live, work and invest in advance of the publication of the government’s refreshed Agenda for Cities next year.

Scottish Gov press release

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Taking Part survey: ‘Heritage Makes You Happy!’

The new ‘Taking Part’ survey has revealed that 95% of adults agree that it is important for historic buildings and environments to be cared for, and ‘happiness scores’ being used to consider attitudes to heritage activity. 

Historic England writes:
The Government’s Taking Part survey on attitudes to heritage has been published today. It shows that nearly all adults (95%) agree that it is important to them that heritage buildings and places are well looked after.

Respondents were asked to identify three things that make them most proud of Britain. British history was the third most quoted factor (37%) with British countryside and scenery being the top factor. British architecture and heritage was also cited by 19% of adults.

The Taking Part survey also measures engagement through volunteering, donations and membership of heritage organisations. 14% of adults have donated money to heritage in the past 12 months and 24% have done voluntary work in the heritage sector in the past year.

Childhood exposure to historic sites has an enduring legacy as adults who have visited heritage sites as children are significantly more likely to have a positive attitude towards heritage.

Happiness scores are measured in the survey and show that those who had visited a heritage site in the past year reported higher happiness scores than those who had not. This reinforces research carried out by the Historic Environment Forum last year which revealed that visiting different types of historic places has a positive impact on life satisfaction and general wellbeing.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, welcomed the results of the survey: ‘I am delighted to see how many people take pride in our heritage and how highly they regard the historic character of our towns and cities and rural landscape. It’s further proof, if we needed it, of the importance of England’s distinctiveness, and how this heritage needs to be valued and integrated with new development rather than disregarded and eroded.’

‘Historic places enrich our existence and we have a responsibility to save and treasure the best of what has been left by those who came before us. Let’s work together to ensure that the heritage that makes people proud to be British today is here for generations to come.’

See the full report

Historic England news 

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Fields in Trust: Parks and greenspace at risk

A survey by Fields in Trust has reported on the potential threats to parks and greenspace, with the North East of England being the most active park users, 16% of respondents reporting pending issues, and 95% of respondents feeling protection for these assets was important. 

Fields in Trust writes:
Nearly all (95%) agree that parks and play areas should be protected from development and 82 per cent feel so strongly that they would be motivated to campaign against a park loss. Two thirds (69%) state that the loss of parks would be detrimental to children’s development and half of respondents admitted that they would be less active if their local green space was lost.

The research found almost half of people say using their local park helps them to feel healthier (48%), with 70% of 16 to 24 year olds also feeling less stressed as a result of having access to green space. Spending quality time with the family and feeling part of a community were also identified as important. Nearly a quarter of people (24%) use their local park at least twice a week.

Fields in Trust currently safeguards over 2,500 sites; a total of 28,000 acres of land including playgrounds, playing fields, and formal and informal parkland across the UK.

As part of its work, Fields in Trust has supported practitioners since the 1930s on open space provision and design. On Thursday 5 November, the charity will launch its latest provision guide, ‘Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play: Beyond the Six Acre Standard’, at the House of Lords. The guide will act as a crucial tool for local planning authorities, developers, planners, urban designers and landscape architects in the planning and design of outdoor sport, play and informal open space.

Helen Griffiths, Fields in Trust Chief Executive, said: ‘These findings demonstrate to us that people really value their local green spaces, with three quarters telling us that they would feel unhappy if their local park was built on or closed tomorrow. We live in a fast-paced world and access to green space provides us all with a chance to take time-out and spend quality time being active with friends and family.

‘Whilst we already protect a huge number of spaces across the country, more can be done. People often assume that their local park will always be there but this isn’t necessarily the case. The first step in getting a park protected is often for local people to actively campaign for it. Today we are encouraging people to take the first step by visiting our website to find out if their favourite local park is safe.’

Fields in Trust ambassador and former England footballer, Graeme Le Saux, said: ‘I was born and grew up in Jersey, where I had unlimited access to outdoor space, whether it was playing fields, parks or sand dunes. Without this, I would never have had the opportunity to have a career in football. It’s these places that cemented my interest in sport and ultimately enabled me to develop my skills.’

The most regular park users are those in the North East, with one in five visiting their local open space almost daily. This is closely followed by Londoners, where almost a third of people use their park between one to three times a week. Going for walks (62%), relaxing (31%) and walking the dog (24%), were accounted as the main reasons for people visiting their local park.

Fields in Trust’s annual awards ceremony in December celebrates the great work being done in parks and play grounds across the UK. This year, for the first time, the Fields in Trust Awards will feature a special category ‘UK’s Best Park’ that will be entirely voted for by the public. Voting is now open and everyone is invited to nominate their favourite local green space, whether that’s a park, sports field, playground or something else entirely.

Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths said: ‘Our research shows that the nation’s parks and green spaces are places to enjoy life experiences, with many of those surveyed saying that’s where they taught their grandchildren to cycle, had their first kiss or reached a personal sporting milestone. Some people have even experienced or witnessed a marriage proposal!

‘Our awards help recognise the role that our parks play in our communities, bringing people together and creating a safe outdoor environment that everyone should be entitled to. As Fields in Trust celebrates its 90th year we invite all park users to vote for their favourite green space.’

Fields in Trust news

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Big Lottery benefitting Welsh historic buildings

The Big Lottery Fund’s £9 million Community Asset Transfer 2 Programme (CAT2) has brought new life into community facilities throughout Wales, including listed buildings.

The Big Lottery writes:
Transforming old railway buildings into community spaces and creating facilities for maritime history, business and sports are among projects sharing in £317,440 of grants from the Big Lottery Fund. The money, from the £9 million Community Asset Transfer 2 Programme (CAT2), aims to provide both capital and revenue funding to support the transfer of assets, such as land and buildings to community ownership. The assets can be transferred from individuals, the public or private sector.  

Seven initial grants of up to £50,000 each are helping projects develop their ideas before being invited to submit developed applications to the second stage of funding with the aim of securing grants of between £300,000 and £1,150,000. (Read full project descriptions here).  

Porthcawl Harbourside CIC will spend £50,000 to progress plans to transfer harbour side land from Bridgend Council and build a five-storey maritime centre. This will be a visitor attraction with a focus on coastal science, maritime history, maritime related sport, fitness, leisure, learning and employment.  

Operations director Mark Bryant said: ‘We are delighted to be awarded this grant by the Big Lottery Fund. We very much appreciate the significant support from Bridgend County Borough Council and the National Lottery. This award will enable us to substantially take forward our ambitious community led project.’  

Bryncethin RFC Limited gets £50,000 to develop plans to transfer an existing sports pavilion, the Clay Pits site, and a large grass area from Bridgend Council and create three football/rugby pitches, a cricket pitch, allotments, fishing and kayaking lake, mountain bike route, health and well being walking trail and campsite.

Also in the pipeline is a community building with changing rooms, meeting rooms, activity space and kitchen.  

Gr?p Cynefin receives £38,435 for its plans to transfer ownership of a former grade II listed railway good shed in Meliden near Prestatyn from Denbighshire Council and refurbish it to provide a cafe, business workshop units for local artisans, community shop, bike hire, community allotments and orchard.  

Spokeswoman Mair Edwards said: ‘We’re delighted to hear that the CAT 2 application for development funding had been successful. The partnership project between Gr?p Cynefin, Denbigshire Council and the local Residents Association (MRAG) aims to renovate the old Good’s Shed into a vibrant community resource. We look forward to progressing the project over the next few months in preparation for the final application.’

Similarly, Llanelli Railway Goods Shed Trust will use £50,000 for plans to transfer another Grade II listed goods shed in Llanelli from Network Rail. It wants to repair, restore and modify the building to provide space for a range of activities including heritage, community performance and exhibition as well as enterprise.

Another £50,000 will be used by Maindee Unlimited to help transfer the ground floor ofMaindee Library and some land nearby from Newport Council and see it transformed into a community space, cafe, bandstand and indoor and outdoor event space.

In north Wales, Aberdyfi Enterprise Trust will use £29,005 to develop plans to transfer the former Aberdyfi Primary School and land from Gwynedd Council and refurbish it to include a centre for older people with a 4-person holiday let for disabled people.

Finally, staying in the same county, Gr?p Datblygu Y Fron Development Group will use£50,000 to progress work to transfer Ysgol Bronyfoel from Gwynedd Council. Plans include renovating the building to provide two community halls, shop, treatment room, kitchen and 16-bed bunkhouse for tourists.

Money from the CAT2 programme is being used to help community groups to regenerate and reinvigorate the assets and develop manage and sustain them to improve their livelihoods and neighbourhoods. Through this programme, groups will be encouraged to use the asset to generate multiple income streams and provide quality services and amenities.

Rob Pickford Wales Big Lottery Fund Wales Committee member and Chair of the CAT2 programme committee said ‘This programme is helping Welsh communities to become stronger and more sustainable by assisting them to obtain and develop assets and improve where they live. By helping to transfer assets to enterprising organisations that actively involve and benefit the communities they serve, we are ultimately helping more people to benefit from their local community assets and also generating local income and employment.’

Big Lottery press release

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‘The Living Memory Project’ launched for memorials

A new project has been launched by the Government with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to help rediscover war memorials, entitled the Living Memory Project. 

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) writes:
Communities Secretary Greg Clark is launching ‘The Living Memory Project’, designed to remind people of the 300,000 war graves and memorials in the UK. Many of these memorials lie in forgotten corners of graveyards; the Living Memory initiative is designed to aid their rediscovery.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:  ‘This year, of course, we’ve continued to mark the First World War’s centenary with a focus on the battlefields of Northern France, Belgium and Turkey. But we should take time to remember the brave men buried and commemorated here in the UK too.  We owe our gratitude to those men, from across the Commonwealth as well as from the British Isles, who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First and Second World Wars.

‘Paying respects at the war graves of Belgium or France is a life-changing experience, but the final resting places and memorials of thousands of brave men can also be found, not far from your home, in 13,000 locations across the British Isles.  The Living Memory Project is a fitting way to pay tribute to that sacrifice and to learn about our shared history. I’d encourage people to get involved, and discover how they can pay their own tribute.’

The Living Memory Project, part-funded by the Government, is working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and thirty-six local groups around the country to create remembrance events at local war memorials.

Thirty-six groups will work with the CWGC to re-discover war graves, pay respect to the war dead, and share their research with the wider community. ‘We should make a positive decision to remember these brave people,’ said Mr Clark. ‘They may have died long before we were born, but they died that we could be free. Their sacrifice should inspire all of us.’

The initiative will continue long after this fortnight of activity, with all communities urged to remember these hidden war heroes annually – creating a thread of memory and shared history long into the future.

CWGC Director of External Relations, Colin Kerr, said:  ‘The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s work overseas is well known, but here in the United Kingdom there is little awareness of the graves to be found in a staggering 13,000 locations, that commemorate over 300,000 Commonwealth dead of the two world wars.  We believe that this is wrong, and through the Living Memory Project aim to reconnect the British public to the commemorative heritage on their doorstep.

‘With the support of DCLG, the Living Memory Pilot will encourage more people to discover and visit CWGC war grave sites in the British Isles, to remember the war dead in those places from the First and Second World Wars and to share and raise awareness of these 300,000 commemorations with their wider communities.  The aim is to roll the programme out nationwide in 2016 as part of the commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the Somme campaign.

The project has been devised in partnership with community engagement specialists, Big Ideas Company.  Chief Executive Virginia Crompton said: ‘We are proud to be contributing to such a meaningful project supporting people across the UK to discover their local war graves.’

View the press release and find out more

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NHSF appoints Alastair McCapra as Chair

The National Heritage Science Forum (NHSF) has appointed Alastair McCapra as the next Chair of its Board of Trustees, to succeed current Co-Chairs Nancy Bell and Professor May Cassar at the AGM on 16 December 2015. 

The NHSF writes:
Alastair is CEO of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). His previous experience is as CEO of the Landscape Institute, the professional body of landscape architects, and as CEO of the Institute of Conservation.

Alastair gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee inquiry into Science and Heritage in 2006 and convened the first stakeholder meeting to establish the National Heritage Science Strategy; he also championed the adoption of Building Information Modelling in landscape architecture between 2011 and 2013.  In 2014 the CIPR was the first professional body in the UK to hold a public debate on the ethics of wearable technology.

From 2013-15 Alastair served as a trustee of Wikimedia UK, the charity which promotes the development of Wikipedia and other open knowledge projects.  He is currently also a trustee of the International Rameau Ensemble.  He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, a Fellow of the Institution of Association Management, a member of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) and a member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

Alastair commented, ‘I am delighted to have the opportunity of working with the heritage science community once again.  The Forum plays a critical role in advancing research and public engagement and that agenda has probably never been as important as it is now.  We live in very challenging times and the Forum must provide the leadership we need to make sure that UK heritage science remains a world leader’.

Nancy Bell and May Cassar, current co-Chairmen of NHSF welcomed his appointment ‘Alastair has the combination of vision and experience that will help NHSF to take forward its ambitious programme of work that centres on supporting partnerships, facilitating resource-sharing and informing policy’.

Alastair will deliver the keynote speech at NHSF’s Members & Friends event on 16 December.  The theme ‘Cash for Data?’ will explore the questions raised by the potential for the commercialisation of heritage science data.

View the press release and find out more about the Heritage Science Forum

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IHBC ‘Guest Blog’: Civic Voice’s Ian Harvie on war memorial care and repair, and asks ‘How will you remember them’?

CivicVoiceMemWriting a special guest blog for IHBC members, Ian Harvey, executive director at Civic Voice, which is running a volunteer War Memorials project to help in their care and preservation by volunteers, asks: ‘How will you remember them’?

Ian Harvey writes:
At this time of year many of us stand at our local war memorial and make the promise ‘to remember them’.  In the silence that follows we think about the hundreds of thousands of men and women, especially those from our own communities, who died in the First World War.

These historic monuments, many of them now approaching 100 years old, are like no others because of the poignant role they play in reminding us of the horrific human cost of war and the enormity of the sacrifice made by previous generations. They provide a tangible link to the former members of our communities who were affected by the conflict, both those who fought and died and those who were left behind.

In addition to their primary role as a focus for commemoration, war memorials contribute to the historic character of our villages, towns and cities.  More often than not, they were funded by public subscription and decisions were made locally about what form they should take, meaning that many of them are unique in their design.  The stories behind how communities decided on their final design, location, the dedicatory inscriptions and the inclusion of individuals’ names, provide a fascinating insight into the social history of the time.

So it is a travesty that there is no definitive record of the estimated 100,000 war memorials thought to exist in the UK.  And of even greater concern is the fact that thousands are thought to be at risk, with stonework crumbling, the names of the fallen fading or obscured by dirt, and some, for example plaques, being lost completely during the redevelopment of buildings.  The First World War Memorial Programme, a partnership between Civic Voice, Historic England, Imperial War Museums and War Memorials Trust, has been developed to address these issues.

Throughout England a body of volunteer has already embarked on recording the condition of their local war memorials and reporting this to War Memorials Trust through their War Memorials Online website.  With this help, the Trust is identifying those memorials that need repair and conservation.  During the First World War Centenary an extra £2million of grant funding is available through the Trust for those memorials that are in need of repairs.   This will ensure that the country’s war memorials are tributes to the fallen befitting of the sacrifice they made.

Communities are also getting involved in protecting  their freestanding war memorials for the future by applying to have them added to the National Heritage List for England.  This ‘listed’ status gives them better protection through the planning process as well as highlighting to communities their importance as historic monuments.  There are currently 1,800 listed war memorials, a fraction of the number that are actually eligible for protection. With the help of volunteers, Historic England aims to add a further 2,500 to The List by the end of the Centenary.

So next time you are passing your local war memorial, be it a stone cross, a statue, a plaque or a park, keep your promise ‘to remember them’. Take a closer look at its condition and log your findings on War Memorials Online.  Your action could kick-start the process of the memorial’s custodian being offered funding for repairs, thus restoring it to pride of place in the community.

For more information contact Civic Voice at, the organisation that is co-ordinating the training and activity of volunteers.

For the War Memorials programme see Civic Voice

For background to the programme see IHBC NewsBlogs and on memorials

Civic Voice website

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Reminder: IHBC co-sponsors HTF London conference, 25 Nov

The IHBC is co-sponsoring the 2015 conference of the Historic Town Forum’s (HTF), on ‘Whose Placemaking is it Anyway….,’ on 25 November in London.

HTF writes:
This event will be held in conjunction with HTF partners MOLA, and will consider practical and theoretical notions of place ownership in terms of archaeology, concepts of urban physical space and how this can define and decide placemaking. In particular we will look at ‘edgelands’, use of space and habitation of marginal urban areas, how these fit into our ideas of what and who make a place, how various uses may or may not be as valid as others, and how contemporary archaeological perspectives and practices, as well as other approaches, can be better used throughout the industry.

The event will take place at the offices of Bircham Dyson Bell, 50 Broadway, SW1 0HB

For more details and booking see: IHBC Events and HTF Events

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IHBC update: Next BS 7913 workshop – Edinburgh, 11 Jan & discounts available!

The one day workshop programme on BS 7913 is coming to Scotland, with John Edwards, IHBC member, trustee and lead author on 7913, leading the seminar on 11 January in Edinburgh, and with discounts available for bookings made before 10 December.

John Edwards writes:
Following events in England, NEW one day workshop sessions have been developed for 2016, by the lead author John Edwards. Taking place in Edinburgh on the 11 January, book now as places are limited and discounts can be received if booked before the 10 December.

For further details and to book see Environment Study Centre website

IHBC NewsBlogs on BS7913

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Conservation good news: former CO thanked for rescuing old butcher’s shop, now a home

The Islington Tribune has reported on the pleasant news that the London Open House weekend brought a former conservation officer face to face with a property owner who now lives in the former butchers shop which was rescued by him 20 years ago. 

The Islington Tribune writes:
THE owner of a Victorian butcher’s shop in Upper Holloway has met for the first time the Town Hall conservation officer who dramatically saved it 20 years ago. 

W Plumb butcher’s shop at 493 Hornsey Road still has many of its original features. Since 2006, it has been the home of Richard Travers.

Two weeks ago Mr Travers, 51, was finally able to thank former conservation officer Alec Forshaw for his efforts in saving the property he so dearly loves.

Read the full story on the art nouveau shop in the Islington Tribune online ‘My thanks to the man who saved a prime slice of history’ – conservation officer ‘rescued’ butcher’s shop that’s now a home’

Read the Islington Tribune article

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BRE Academy survey measures ‘boardroom to building site’ skills

A new skills survey by the BRE Academy aims to generate a comprehensive picture of the UK’s construction skills gap from senior leaders down to sub-contractors, with a closing date for the survey is 31 January 2016.

BRE writes:
The survey, which has gone live, comes in response to a convergence of challenges hitting the construction sector and forcing it to change the tried and tested traditional methods and processes it has been used to for several decades.

BRE Academy Director Pauline Traetto said ‘ We have less land, fewer resources, more people, more demand, climate change and adaption issues, migration to cities, the move to digital construction or BIM – new designs, construction methods and materials are coming on the market and those working in the sector need to upskill and move with the changes. All of us working in education and training need to understand where the market is at and how we can support it to going forward ‘

Construction currently contributes £92 billion a year to the UK economic output with almost 3 million people working in the sector. Growth in the domestic market and unprecedented expansion in developing countries means that a talented, engaged workforce is critical for the future.

Aiming for a large sample of diverse respondents, the BRE Academy aims to establish an understanding of what skills are in short supply and what skills are needed for the industry now and in the future. Specific focus will be on skills for delivery of: low-carbon and highly sustainable assets that bring value to owners and occupants, projects transformed by digital design, advanced materials and new technologies, and buildings that perform at optimum design levels.

Traetto concludes ‘The survey will also explore the factors responsible for the poor public image of the construction industry, the lack of gender diversity at all levels and how best to establish clear and appealing career pathways for young industry entrants. We’ll be announcing the results at Ecobuild next March.’

Complete the survey

BRE article

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Osborne, 9/11: ‘Government departments to make savings’

In a speech made on 9 November Chancellor George Osborne has outlined the plans for government savings where four departments (including DCLG) will make 30% savings. 

Chancellor George Osborne said on 9 November:
I’ll spell out the full details of the savings we will make on November 25th.

But I can report to you that – with the support of my brilliant colleague Greg Hands, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury – we have reached provisional agreement on the spending plans of four government departments.

The Department for Transport, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and of course the Treasury.

The resource spending – that is the day to day spending of those four departments – will be cut on average 8% a year for the next four years, that’s by 30% in total.

These savings will be achieved by a combination of further efficiencies in departments, closing low value programmes, and focusing on our priorities as a country.

These provisional settlements apply to the day to day resource spending of the central departments – they are not the capital budgets of these departments.

View the full speech

View a LocalGov article on the savings proposed

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Re-listings celebrate history of the Women’s Institute

The Centenary of the first Women’s Institute meeting in England has resulted in new listings and re-listings of buildings associated with this important institution. 

Historic England writes:

  • Re-listings announced by Historic England on the centenary of the first Women’s Institute meeting in England
  • WI movement began in 1915 to encourage women to grow and preserve food in the face of wartime shortages
  • WI played an instrumental role in getting village halls built across the country as well as their educational and social role, bringing together women from all walks of life

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has re-listed four buildings because they are integral to the history of the Women’s Institute (WI) on the advice of Historic England. The re-listings celebrate the story of the WI and are announced today to mark the centenary of the first WI meeting in England.

Due to the WI’s significance for women, for rural life and for British society in general, the place of their first meeting in England; the home of their first Chairman; their training college and one of their earliest institute buildings are of national historic interest. The four buildings were already listed but now their historical connections to the WI have been researched and included in the list description on the National Heritage List for England. The List is managed by Historic England, on behalf of the Government. It affords special protection to the most important parts of England’s physical heritage, so that our history can be enjoyed by present and future generations.

The Women’s Institute began in Britain in response to the need for increased food production during the First World War, by providing the education and organisation through which the skill and labour of women could be made most effective.

On 9 November 1915 the first Women’s Institute meeting in England was held at The Fox Inn, Charlton, West Sussex by the Singleton and East Dean Women’s Institute (the first WI formed in England). The meeting took place in the pub’s back room, now known as the Hat Rack Bar. The inn-keeper of The Fox was a woman and founder-member, Mrs Laishley, which may have helped make the pub a welcoming venue for Women’s Institute meetings. The newly-opened village hall at Singleton, where the WI now meets, was at that time for the use of men only. Now known as The Fox Goes Free, the pub was listed at Grade II in 1986 but has now been re-listed to mark its historic special interest.

Early WI meetings frequently took place in places such as schools, and private or public houses. After the war, the WI was instrumental in setting up village halls, for community activities, whilst many WIs established their own buildings, sometimes re-using existing structures; army surplus huts, for example, or Nonconformist chapels.

In 1947 The WI bought the 18th century Marcham Park in Oxfordshire for use as a training college having made the decision that the organisation ‘should provide a centre for educational and social intercourse and activities’. The house was renamed Denman College, in honour of the first Chairman, Lady Gertrude Denman, who was at that point recently-retired, and it opened in 1948. In the early days of the college, members slept in dormitory style rooms and helped with household chores. Courses included domestic and practical skills, including garage work and butchery.

An avenue of limes was planted in honour of Madge Rose Watt, the Canadian who was instrumental in the formation of Women’s Institutes in Britain. The college (now known as Denman) continues to this day and the building has been re-listed so the history of the WI training college is noted.

In 1948 the Mechanics Institute in Newbrough, Northumberland was gifted to the local Women’s Institute, along with a sum of £100 for decorating and renovation work. Newbrough Women’s Institute was founded in 1923 by over a hundred women from the village, and prior to acquiring the former mechanic’s Institute, they met in the adjacent town hall. The building has panels inscribed with ‘Women’s Institute’ between the ground and first floor windows.

The Women’s Institute’s first Chairman was Lady Gertrude Denman (1884-1954) who held the post from the formation of the Federation of Women’s Institutes in 1917, until 1946.Balcombe Place in Sussex was Lady Denman’s home from 1905 until the end of her life. The building was Grade II* listed for architectural reasons (an 1856 country house by the distinguished architect Henry Clutton) and has now been re-listed to reflect the strong historical association with Lady Denman. During the Second World War, the house also became the administrative headquarters of the Women’s Land Army. Lady Denman was active in many other areas of women’s welfare – in 1930 she helped found and became chairman of the National Birth Control (later Family Planning) Association, and from 1938 she co-ordinated the re-establishment of the Women’s Land Army, lending Balcombe Place for its use.

Culture, Media and Sport Minister, Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: ‘Since their first meeting in England in 1915 the WI has become a much loved British institution. I am very pleased to re-list these special places and preserve the historic significance of this extraordinary social movement. As a farmer’s daughter I am very aware that the WI was formed during the First World War encouraging women to grow and preserve food.’ 

Esther Godfrey, Listing Adviser at Historic England, said:  ‘These four buildings tell the story of the formation and the development of the Women’s Institute in England from a small meeting in the back room of a pub to a thriving national institution. We are delighted to be able to celebrate the history of this significant movement on the National Heritage List for England.’ 

Janice Langley, Chair of the NFWI, said: ‘We’re delighted that these buildings are being celebrated as they played important roles in the very beginnings of the WI. Since the first meeting on Anglesey on 16 September 1915, the WI has empowered women to become engaged citizens who are fully involved in all aspects of life, and to take an active role influencing communities locally, regionally, and nationally.  ‘It’s fantastic that Historic England has joined in the celebrations today – here’s to the next inspirational 100 years!’

To begin with, WIs mainly met in existing buildings such as schools, village halls, private house and pubs. After the war, the WI was instrumental in getting village halls built (in association with the Village Clubs Association), and many WIs met in these, rather than in halls specifically designed for WI use. These are not listed but help to illustrate the experience of WI women across the country.  For example, the WI at Tatsfield, Surrey, founded 1925, took over a turn-of-the-century Baptist Hall, a plain tin tabernacle remaining fairly intact, which had the 1970s WI logo over the door.

Many WI halls were prefabricated buildings, some being bought from army surplus, such as the hut bought by the WI of Girton, Cambridgeshire, at a Ministry of Munitions sale in 1920, and still in use today. The timber WI hall at Romanby, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, also in use today was erected specifically for the WI.

The interwar WI hall at Parbold, Wigan, Greater Manchester is fairly unusual in being purpose-built to a distinct design, with the purpose of the building demonstrated in the initials ‘P.W.I.’ inscribed in a panel in the gable.

The listed buildings can be explored in the National Heritage List for England.

Historic England article

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HHA report on economic importance of private houses

The Historic Houses Association (HHA) has reported on the economic contribution of privately owned historic houses in the UK, with £85 million per annum spent on repair and maintenance alone. 

The HHA writes:
 The Historic Houses Association (HHA) has published the findings of an independently commissioned report on the Economic and Social Contribution of Independently Owned Historic Houses and Gardens.

The report, produced by DC Research, provides independent, credible and robust evidence on the scale and breadth of the sector’s economic contribution, following the Treasury’s own Green Book methodology. 

Richard Compton, President of the Historic Houses Association commented: ‘The independent study confi confirms that Britain’s privately owned historic houses generate significantly greater benefit than their direct economic contribution.  They are hugely popular tourist attractions attracting millions of visitors a year, and yet they remain embedded to their communities, acting as economic magnets and place-markers in rural areas, collectively employing thousands of people.’

The key economic findings from the report are:

  • HHA members generate 41,000 Full Time Equivalent jobs in direct or induced employment
  • Contribute £286m per year into the economy as gross value added
  • HHA properties spend £247m per year on goods and services – 46% of which is with local suppliers
  • Total estimated gross expenditure is £1billion from visits alone, £720m of which is off-site

Historic Houses and Gardens also make a very important social and cultural contribution and the activities that these places host and promote generate beneficial effects throughout rural areas – where they are most needed:

  • 60% of the HHA’s 1,629 membership is open to the public
  • 24 million visits to HHA properties a year
  • Almost half of HHA members host charity and community events
  • Many offer discounted access to local people to visit the house or free access to the grounds
  • One third host primary school visits; one fifth secondary school visits and many welcome higher education students and adult learners
  • HHA properties host plays, art installations, concerts and recitals

However, the cost of conserving these much-loved properties is rising, and the report highlights the alarming increase in the shortfall of maintenance expenditure at privately owned historic houses.

  • Estimated spend on regular repairs and maintenance across entire HHA membership is £85 million per annum.
  • Value of outstanding urgent repairs across entire HHA membership estimated to be almost £480 million, with value of outstanding other repairs almost £901 million. Addressing all outstanding repairs for the entire HHA membership (potential spend of £1.38 billion).

The report shows that unless something is done, the figure for the backlog of urgent repairs will continue to increase.  With each passing year there will be new demands, repairs will become more difficult practically and costs will rise.  The rocketing estimates for the restoration of the Houses of Parliament shows how costs escalate when action is delayed and the HHA is urging the government to provide practical support.

HHA article

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