IHBC Conservation Areas 50th Anniversary update No 1- IHBC/CV/HE joint research review update on ‘perceptions’

HE CA Survey June 2017Historic England, working with Civic Voice (CV) and the IHBC, has released results of two parallel surveys of IHBC and CV members’ perceptions of conservation areas in their 50th anniversary year. 

Key points include:

  • Almost all respondents from both groups felt that conservation areas had been in some way successful at protecting heritage, with nearly half thinking they had been ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ successful.
  • Respondents felt that most conservation areas appear to be in a stable condition.
  • Most of them from both groups (roughly half) felt that the appearance and vitality of their known conservation area had not changed significantly in the past 3 years.
  • On the sensitive issue of design, very few believe modern design to be inappropriate in Conservation Areas (Only 4% of Civic Voice respondents and no responding IHBC members). 

CV and HE write:

What do local civic society members and heritage professionals think has been achieved, and what more needs to be done?’…

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Civic Amenities Act and the establishment of the first conservation area in Stamford, Lincolnshire. To mark the event, Historic England has been working with Civic Voice and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) to build a picture of their members’ attitudes towards conservation areas half a century on through two parallel surveys. A range of Civic Voice members from local civic societies across the UK and IHBC professionals from the public and private sector took part in the surveys.

Respondents who live within a conservation area told us that they wanted to stay living in one if they had to move. 71% of Civic Voice replies said they would want to remain living in a conservation area and only 5% not wanting to live in another one, while 57% of IHBC respondents said they would move to another conservation area and none said they would not want to live in one. The reasons cited for wanting to remain living in a conservation area included the quality, historic character and general condition of the area.

The picture, however, is not all positive and respondents from both groups did identify a number of issues to be confronted in this anniversary year. The controls in conservation areas are not well understood. Only 2% of IHBC and Civic Voice members believed the general public have a good understanding about the extent of additional controls in place with more than half feeling that the public had ‘little’ or ‘no’ understanding. And of the respondents who did report significant change in their local conservation area in the last three years, more were likely to perceive a deterioration rather than an improvement. Street clutter, the loss of traditional paving materials, advertisements, a lack of maintenance and loss of historic details were the five most significant concerns identified by both groups. When the problem of the loss of historic detailing was examined in more detail the most frequently mentioned concerns were with doors and windows, signs and advertising, shopfronts and the deteriorating condition of front elevations generally.

The respondents came up with some very helpful suggestions about how local civic societies could become more effective in improving conservation areas. These included: building links between the local group and the local authority, raising general awareness of the designation, campaigning and using volunteers to actively manage places.

The surveys are part of series of activities planned by the three organisations over this anniversary year.

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