Work of the Alliance of Historic Cathedral Cities and Towns

WHY WAS THE ALLIANCE CREATED?

The setting up of Alliance of Historic Cathedral Cities and Towns (ACT) reflected the fact that civic societies in a number of cathedral cities and historic towns had becoming increasingly concerned about the tension between the conservation of the historic city/town and varying degrees of population, housing and economic growth. At the same time a number of other groups were highlighting the need to protect and enhance historic cities and towns, which have enormous economic, as well as cultural and social value to the country. These bodies included the Kenwood House Group (which published “Cathedral Cities & Historic Towns“), the Historic Towns Forum and Historic England, which in 2014 commissioned Green Balance to produce a report entitled “The Sustainable Growth of Cathedral Cities and Historic Towns” (plus Appendix relating to Canterbury) which highlighted some of the problems.

The Alliance of Historic Cathedral Cities and Towns was established in 2015 by a group of civic societies in cathedral cities, under the umbrella of Civic Voice, the national body for civic societies across England. The Alliance was launched at the Civic Voice Annual Conference in Bristol in October 2015. Since then there has been a presentation of its work at the Civic Voice Conference in Chester in 2016 and a further presentation is scheduled for the Civic Voice Conference in Wakefield in 2017.

WHAT HAS THE ALLIANCE DONE?

When  ACT was set up it was known that many civic societies were concerned about the pressure on historic cities and towns. However, the nature and extent of their concerns were not known. This led to the carrying out of a survey which involved a questionnaire to be completed by the representatives of civic societies across England – thanks are due to all those who responded to the ACT survey and the staff at Civic Voice who collated the answers.

OUTCOME OF THE RESEARCH TO BE AVAILABLE LATE NOVEMBER

Over the past few months the results of the survey have been analysed and written up and a detailed report on the research will be presented at a special workshop at the Wakefield Conference on Saturday 21ST November. Copies of the report will be available for those attending the workshop. There will also be discussion about the plans for the work of ACT over the coming months, and we hope that delegates to the Conference will come along to give us their views and suggestions.

WHAT NEXT?

The research carried out by ACT has already been presented in draft to Historic England and this has led on to two suggestions for further work, both focused on the concerns of civic societies.

First, it was suggested that the results of the research had implications for the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It was suggested that ACT could draw on the research, and on the experience of civic societies, to propose amendments to the NPPF. The DCLG are in the process of reviewing the NPPF. As a result the ACT Steering Group have recently written to the Planning Minister with a number of proposed amendments to the NPPF which, if adopted, would provide more positive planning guidance for historic cathedral cities and towns facing pressures for growth. These recommendations will be presented at the ACT workshop on 21st October.

Secondly, there is the possibility of further research. This would focus on the types of growth and change which can either sustain the character of historic cities and towns – or can damage these places. Historic England have indicated that there is a need for further research into these issues and the ACT Steering Group is currently working on a research proposal which we hope to submit to Historic England for consideration in the near future. This proposal, too, will be presented at the workshop in Wakefield, and comments on it will be welcome.

The ACT workshop takes place at the Civic Voice Conference on 21st October. If  interested in getting more involved with ACT and/or taking part in its work contact John Pahl (Chair Canterbury Society) at J.M.Pahl@kent.ac.uk

Acknowledgements: To John Pahl (Chair Canterbury Society) from the ACT Steering Group who provided this background information on the ACT

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Cathedral Cities in Peril‘ This report published in March 2015 was the result of reflections and debates held by Foster + Partners, English Heritage and Terence O’Rourke MBE, which took place in the context set by the Kenwood House Group. It was prepared to help inform the debate about the expansion of our cathedral cities and historic towns, mainly prompted by the need to significantly increase housing stock.

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