UK first: Scotland’s online tool on town inter-relationships

A new tool has been published by a consortium of four partners to promote the better understanding of towns and their inter-relationships in Scotland.

The Carnegie UK Trust writes:
A consortium, made up of the Carnegie UK Trust, Scotland’s Towns Partnership, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), and the University of Stirling, has unveiled the UK’s first online tool to help understand the facts, figures and interrelationships that underpin all of Scotland’s towns and cities.

The launch took place in Musselburgh which saw Margaret Burgess MSP, Minister for Housing and Welfare ’switch-on’ the new online tool.

Understanding Scottish Places (USP) answers a pressing need for better quality information to inform important decisions about how communities are organised and funded. It brings together 36,000 different pieces of data about places and people in Scotland into one online, visual, searchable database.  From today, anyone can access a full suite of information about any of 479 Scottish communities digitally – and compare that information with any other place across the country.

The launch of the new tool comes on the back of an Ipsos MORI survey carried out in March by the Carnegie UK Trust, leaders of the USP consortium, which encouragingly revealed that the majority (54%) of Scots value the services available in their local communities.  Many of those questioned recognised the way in which places in Scotland are inter-related and rely on each other for different facilities and services, something that is explored further in USP.  Almost 40% revealed that they travel to access the services they require.

Margaret Burgess MSP, Minister for Housing and Welfare said: ‘USP is a powerful resource for people working across the country giving them the opportunity to design better strategies for their communities – whether they are in councils, town partnerships or BIDs, traders associations, businesses or community groups.  It’s a great tool, ideally positioned to help local people see how their area is working for them and be inspired to get involved in revitalising their towns.  It is just one of a number of measures that the Scottish Government is backing to help to deliver the Town Centre Action Plan.  We hope that this platform will encourage communities to look at other towns with similar characteristics and start to share more of their success stories.’

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, joined Margaret Burgess for today’s switch-on, and said: ‘USP is a valuable tool for all of those invested in making our town’s better places to live.  It recognises that different places have different needs, and require different services and resources. It explores the way in which each place has a unique identity and this is how we need to think about places when we design services, invest, and innovate. For the first time, the platform looks at the levels of interdependency between communities, to give us a more sophisticated and constructive picture of how our places work together.  In the coming months, we will be consulting further across the whole country, to see what needs to be added to this platform to deepen that understanding and grow the sophistication of the data we can offer.’

The platform has been designed and built by the Carnegie UK Trust, Scotland’s Towns Partnership, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), and the University of Stirling.  Co-funded by Carnegie UK and the Scottish Government, it is a practical output of the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Action Plan.

View the news release 

UK Local Gov article

Access the resource

View a video about the new tool

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Election updates: Manifesto pledges & more

Election coverage continues on The Planning Portal Blog with an analysis of each party manifesto and its policies affecting town planning, whilst BEFS assesses the potential impact of proposals on Scotland’s built environment and RIBA urges us to ‘Build a better Britain’ by asking candidates to sign pledges championing a better built environment.

View the planning portal summary

View the BEFS bulletin analysis of manifestos

Visit the RIBA ‘Build a Better Britain’ resource

View the Heritage Alliance manifesto analysis

View previous IHBC newsblogs on election matters

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Crown Court considers unauthorised works to GII Llanwenarth House

Newport Crown Court considered unauthorised alteration works to a Grade II (GII) listed property in South Wales, once home to Cecil Alexander (composer of ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’), with sentencing due to take place on May 15.

The Daily Mail, Wales Online and the Guardian have all reported on this case, which has allegedly involved replacement windows, interior modernization work and external driveway works.

View the articles on this case

WalesOnline news

Guardian article

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NI carrier bag levy to fund £½m of listed building works

Did you know that the carrier bag levy where you pay a small charge for carrier bags in shops can go to fund listed building works?

DoENI writes:
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan today gave hope to environmental groups suffering funding cuts.  He will allocate £2million, still to be distributed from the £4.2million revenue raised via the Carrier Bag Levy, to help offset the funding cut to his Department as a result of the Government budget.  The money will go to deliver key environmental priorities with particular emphasis on projects that benefit communities.

The Minister has developed a three pronged plan to allocate the money.

One million pounds will be made available for a Natural Environment Fund. The Minister will convene a workshop tomorrow, Thursday, for relevant NGOs who have suffered cuts to their natural environment funds. Through the new Fund he will be seeking ways for the groups to safeguard our most valuable sites and protect our wider countryside, lever in significant other sources of funding and encourage volunteering and community action. He will also be looking to the groups to operate as cost effectively as possible including creating shared services such as administration to help reduce their own costs.

The second element of the plan is to provide £0.55million for DOE’s Challenge Fund, targeted principally at schools and community groups.

Thirdly, the Minister will allocate a further half a million pounds for Listed Building Grants.

Commenting on this additional money Mark H Durkan said: ‘My Department suffered a higher percentage of cuts than any other department which created strain across all DOE business areas. Last month at the Environment Committee, I vowed to do what I could to respond to concerns raised by a range of key environment groups across the North.  The £1million injection into the Natural Environment Fund will see those NGOs and councils, specifically managing our landscapes, who had previously been in receipt of, but lost funding, now get some funding restored. But we need the money to be used effectively. That is why I am organising a workshop in Crawfordsburn tomorrow to work with environment groups on how we can ensure we use this money as effectively as possible. I need to hear their views on how we can safeguard our best environmental sites and our unique landscape, how we can best protect our priority species, and how we can encourage closeness to nature and access to the countryside.

‘I will be asking the groups how they can cut their running costs, to share services focussing on delivery, so that this money can stretch as far as possible. This is a limited amount of money and we must use it to the maximum.  On top of this, the existing DOE Challenge Fund will receive £0.55million, but with a much greater focus on delivering schemes for schools and community groups, particularly those who support vulnerable, unemployed or older people.

‘Half a million pounds will also now be allocated to listed building grants. Under the budget cuts no money was to be allocated here. Now some important community and church buildings for which applications have already been approved and whose focus is on community access, will benefit.’

Mark H Durkan concluded: ‘This is a tough tough time for environmental groups. I hear their concerns loud and clear. What I am now doing is fulfilling my vow to try and alleviate some of that pain as imaginatively as possible. When the Carrier Bag Levy was introduced, the promise was that it would be spent on the environment. We are fulfilling that promise, but in a focussed way with emphasis on projects that benefit communities, while also putting the onus on those receiving the money to be as efficient and effective as possible. I will continue throughout the year to keep seeking ways to address this budget problem for the benefit of our environment.’

NI Gov article

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Council set to demand demolished pub is rebuilt ‘brick by brick’

A council is poised to demand a demolished historic pub be rebuilt ‘brick by brick’ after it was demolished without permission. 

LocalGov writes:
Westminster City Council is expected to next week issue an unprecedented enforcement order requiring the owners of the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale to ‘recreate in facsimile the building as it stood immediately prior to its demolition’.

The 1920s pub survived bombing during the Second World War but was bulldozed in April. The local authority had received an application to demolish the building and replace it with mixed-use accommodation but councillors turned it down.

However the owners, Tel Aviv-based company CLTX, went ahead with demolition, in a move that cllr Jan Prendergast told the BBC ‘came as such a shock to everyone’.

It sparked local outrage with people spraying ‘this is vandalism’ on boarding surrounding the building site.

A council order for the reconstruction of a building this size could mark a UK first. The decision would also stop the firm from selling the site until the pub has been rebuilt.

Director of planning at Westminster City Council, John Walker, said: ‘There is a paper going to planning committee next week. Obviously, we cannot pre-empt any decision, but this shows how important the issue is to local residents and the council, and officers have worked hard to bring this to the committee as quickly as possible.

‘We are still liaising with Historic England and DCMS and the advice provided by them will help to determine the final course of action.’

CLTX is understood to be appealing the decision to refuse consent, the Standard reports. The company was unable to be reached for comment. 

UK Local Gov article

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RBKC serves enforcement notice over ‘red tape’ stripes

A woman in west London’s Kensington has been told by The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to remove the red and white stripes she had painted on her house in protest over a rejected planning application.

RBKC has served an enforcement notice on the owner ordering the stripes’ removal after neighbours complained.

The stripes appeared earlier this month after plans to demolish the house and replace it with a new house and two-storey basement were refused.

Planning Portal Blog 

BBC News

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Bath development ‘row’ based on size and details

A row over whether a block of apartments in Bath should be demolished or altered has been referred to the planning inspectorate as City councillors say the scheme as built bears little resemblance to the scheme they approved. 

The BBC writes (and includes photographs of before and after):
The Upper Oldfield Park development is on conservation land and councillors locally say it bears little resemblance to the scheme they approved.

Last week they refused a retrospective application which has now been appealed by Landmark Developments Ltd.

A meeting will be held on 29 April to discuss possible enforcement action.

Speaking on behalf of the developer, planning consultant Mark Willis said they had been ‘fully cooperating’ with officers throughout the entire process.

‘There has been continuous and detailed dialogue with both the building control officers, and the planning officers and the enforcement officers the whole way through,’ said Mr Willis.

He added it would be unnecessary to demolish the whole building as the internal steel frame can be altered. He also argues the changes actually improve the building and its design.

But those against the work say the building is taller and wider than agreed and lacks certain design elements involving its balconies and roof.

Last year, Bath and North East Somerset Council ordered the work to be halted and since then the issue has passed back and forth between councillors and the developer.

Caroline Kay, chief executive of the Bath Preservation Trust, said the location was appropriate for ‘well considered’ redevelopment but this had become a ‘very unhappy situation for all parties’.

‘There is a planning principle at stake here, about agreed planning permissions and whether one should agree something different from that retrospectively,’ she added.

‘The important place for this to be thrashed out is now in front of a planning inspectorate appeal, and the outcome that everyone seeks is one that is not harmful to the conservation area and respects planning law as a way forward for taking this panning development on.’

BBC News

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IHBC’s Corporate Plan 2015-20: Final consultation on ‘CP20′

IHBC Corporate Plan 2015-20 DRAFT CoverMembers and prospective members are asked to take a look at the final review of the IHBC’s draft Corporate Plan for 2015-20, CP20, before its presentation for adoption at our 2015 AGM in Norwich in June, with a request for feedback by 8 May.

Download the plan

Further details and background

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IHBC welcomes  £79,000 HLF grant for UKAPT

The IHBC has welcomed the news that the UK Association of Preservation Trusts (UKAPT), the link body for the UK’s Building Preservation Trusts (BPTs), has been awarded a £79,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to help its future organisation and management. 

IHBC Director Seán O’Reilly said: ‘This funding will help APT grow and continue their vital work across the historic environment sector.  In particular the IHBC hopes to work closely with UKAPT to help its members secure properly skilled staff that are able support their extensive volunteer network and further their conservation objectives while also helping maximise the benefits from future public investment in BT projects.’ 

UKAPT writes:
The UK Association of Preservation Trusts (APT) has received £79,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a transformative project to reinvigorate and strengthen the organisation. Over the next 18 months, this project will enable the Trust to extend the membership, review its brand and governance, and offer enhanced support to its nationwide network of member Trusts involved in rescuing, restoring and re-using historic buildings in their communities.

The project will focus on the future of the APT, finding new ways for its energetic and enthusiastic members to share their experience, skills and knowledge. It will enable APT to employ two part-time members of staff to support and develop the membership and to improve the technical guidance and support to the network of building preservation trusts throughout all the stages of their projects.

The UK Association of Preservation Trusts is a peer-to-peer network of building preservation trusts and community groups, which promotes and supports the rescue and sustainable use of historic buildings. Groups are often volunteer-led and motivated to rescue their valued local historic buildings after market failure, transforming eyesores into sustainable active places and spaces.  As community regeneration agencies, these groups have saved over 1,000 buildings and raised over £1bn in funding.

Commenting on the award, Sarah McLeod, Chair of APT said: ‘We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.  I am confident that the project will transform APT to become a more efficient, effective and resilient network, supporting our members in their valued work.’ 

IHBC newsblogs on preservation trusts

IHBC newsblogs on funding  

APT news

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New academic year shows boost in apprenticeship numbers

The latest statistics show a growth in apprenticeship and traineeship figures from the latest academic year, writes the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) 

CITB writes:
Apprenticeships are going from strength to strength after official figures revealed they saw a boost in popularity in the first part of the academic year.

Some 670,000 people chose to learn vital skills on the job between the end of 2014 and the start of 2015, according to statistics from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  And a huge chunk of this number was made up by the 16-24 age group, with around 400,000 young people opting to enrol on workplace training schemes.  There was also a rise in the number of recruits to higher apprenticeships and to traineeships, showing that more and more people are seeing vocational training as worth their while.

Ministers and industry chiefs have welcomed the news as positive for both the economy and workers, adding that it should help to keep employers focused on the value of such schemes.

Stephen Radley, CITB Director of Policy and Strategic Planning, said: ‘It is great to see the dramatic increase in apprentice numbers this academic year, particularly those aged 16 to 24.  Many young people are voting with their feet to take up an apprenticeship.  The growth of higher apprenticeships also demonstrates that apprenticeships are a route to skills at all levels.  The challenge now for construction employers is to take this message to teachers, parents and careers advisers. Building on this success must also be a priority for the next government.’

On top of the growth in apprentice numbers, the figures show that around 9,000 traineeships have started since August 2014, helping young people get experience and training in the workplace.  Meanwhile, more than 19,000 people have signed up to higher apprenticeships, which aim to prepare people for jobs in law or accountancy.  And there has also been a year-on-year increase in the number of adults aged 19 to 64 in England qualified to at least Level 2, the equivalent of five A*-C GCSEs.

Skills Minister Nick Boles said: ‘Apprenticeships deliver for employers, young people, adults and the economy. Today’s figures show that the long-term economic plan is working as more and more people across the country reap the benefits of apprenticeships.  I am greatly encouraged to see the significant growth in traineeships. Despite only being in their second year, traineeships are equipping thousands of young people with the experience and skills essential for the workplace.’

View the news release

IHBC newsblogs on apprenticeships

IHBC newsblogs on construction

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Green Investment Bank, Planning etc. poll: More powers!

A poll by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) reveals opinions that the Green Investment Bank should be given a greater role in national infrastructure projects, and criticises the role of the planning system in lack of action or powers for acting on sustainable economy issues.

IEMA writes:
Two thirds of IEMA Members surveyed this week say that ultimately national needs must take priority where there is conflict between national and local built environment issues.

From 646 Members polled, 65% say that while a balance is obviously needed, nationally significant infrastructure projects must take priority. Members also indicated that the Government’s Green Investment Bank should have a greater role in taking forward such nationally significant infrastructure. 92% said that they want to see the role of the Green Investment Bank increased so that it has powers to appropriately borrow and invest in projects that both protect and improve the UK’s natural capital.

Furthermore, where there are prominent regional concerns, such as the recent peak in air pollution levels in the South East of England, IEMA Members say that these should not be left to Local Authorities alone; in fact 89% of respondents say that resolving the UK’s poor air quality is a critical priority for the next Government. Making significant progress on improvements to air quality will benefit the environment as well as human health and well-being, as poor air quality is currently linked to 29,000 premature deaths each year.

Three quarters of IEMA’s respondents say that the current planning system is not equipped to aid the UK’s much-needed transition to a sustainable economy. 75% said that the Planning System – including its legislation, policies and guidance – is not currently capable of playing the vital role necessary in order to achieve sustainable economy goals. Lack of action on this issue could threaten the UK’s ability to implement infrastructure projects which harmonise with the need to protect the natural environment.

IEMA’s Policy Lead on planning and environmental impact Josh Fothergill said ‘This poll very markedly shows that there is an opportunity for the incoming Government to take the bold decision needed to kick the UK’s transition to a sustainable economy up a gear. In particular professionals using the Planning system indicate it must play an enhanced role in this transition.’

Other significant statistics from IEMA’s poll include:

  • In relation to managing coastal erosion and the associated risks to people and property, IEMA Members believe that if the next Government continues to pursue a ‘managed retreat’ policy then it must alter its approach to compensating those whose property is at risk. 64% say that the Government should expand community adaptation funds, such as the 2009 Pathfinder scheme, to assist communities most at risk.
  • In regards to other built environment developments, 84% believe that identifying brownfield sites should be a priority for new housing developments needed to address the UK’s housing crisis. 58% said urban infill is a key option and 42% said publically owned land could also be used.

IHBC newsblogs on housing

IHBC newsblogs on sustainability  

View the news release

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HES seeks CEO

Recruiting has commenced for the post of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

Jane Ryder OBE, Chair, HES, writes:
This is an extraordinary and exciting moment for the historic environment in Scotland as the organisation prepares to take on a new role and responsibilities from 1 October 2015.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES), established by the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014, brings together two organisations – Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) – that have helped to look after our nation’s heritage for over a century.

The new organisation will be the lead body for the historic environment in Scotland, working within the new Historic Environment Strategy ‘Our Place in Time’ and impacting positively on all communities within Scotland.

As the first Chief Executive you will have a unique opportunity to be involved in the creation of a new organisation which will play a lead role in shaping the historic environment in Scotland, and in the lives of Scottish people and visitors alike, for decades to come.

See more on the post and Apply

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Tallest residential tower waved through by Boris

London Mayor Boris Johnson has decided not to intervene over proposals for a 215-metre high residential tower, the UK’s tallest, proposed for Marsh Wall near Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs in East London.

The scheme, known as South Quay Plaza will provide 888 flats, 188 of which will be affordable, was approved by Tower Hamlets Council last November.

Designed by Foster & Partners, the scheme comprises a 68-storey tower and a smaller 36-storey structure. There will also be ground-floor commercial units, car parking and landscaping. Three existing commercial buildings will be demolished. Changes from the original planning application include a reduction in the height of the tallest building from 73 storeys to 68. 

Visit the South Quay Plaza website

Planning Portal Blog

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DCLG modifies guidance on Vacant Building Credit regime

The Department for Communities and Local Government has announced changes to the guidance on the vacant building credit (VBC) regime initially introduced in November last year. 

The changes confirm that the intention of the VBC is to act as an incentive for brownfield development on sites containing vacant buildings and that it can operate with respect to either the number of affordable housing units or the amount of a financial contribution towards affordable housing.

The revised guidance makes it clear that the regime provides an element of discretion for local planning authorities (LPAs) over the way VBC is applied.

This means that LPAs can consider whether the building was made vacant for the sole purpose of redevelopment and whether the building was already covered by an existing or recently expired planning permission for a development similar what is now proposed.

The updated advice also sets out the detailed procedure for determining the VBC where there are changes in the gross floor space of vacant buildings on the site, which affect the amount of affordable housing contribution.

When the guidance was originally published some local authorities, particularly in London, opposed the principle of the initiative on the basis that it would significantly reduce the level of affordable housing contributions.

Some local authorities are considering introducing local planning policies to mitigate the impact or establish a local VBC exemption.

View the guidance on the Vacant Building Credit

Planning Portal Blog

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Wales: Community Asset Transfer Best Practice Guide

The Welsh Government have released a new best practice guide to community asset transfer, outlining case studies of successful transfer, templates for best practice and summarising the legislative process applicable to transfers.

Download the guide

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ICON Conservation Awards: Nominations by 15 May

The Icon Conservation Awards 2015 Programme has been launched, with six major national awards on offer to individuals or on behalf of an organisation or community projects, with applications due before 15 May 2015.

further details…

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