IHBC’s 10th anniversary
Business and celebration in Edinburgh
To celebrate the institute’s 10th anniversary, IHBC council travelled north to meet in Edinburgh: Auld Reekie, the Athens of the North and home to half of the IHBC’s national office staff. Over two days on 6 and 7 September our council members and staff contributed both to the operation of the institute, at our quarterly council meeting, and to the IHBC-hosted seminar for invited guests on Placemaking and Regeneration, generously supported by Historic Scotland. Historic Scotland also hosted and co-sponsored our 10th anniversary evening reception in Edinburgh Castle, while Architecture and Design Scotland hosted our council meeting. The aspirations represented by these two organisations reflect perfectly the range of interests across our membership.
Although linked this year to our anniversary celebrations, the event was part of a wider strategy agreed by council to move the council meetings around major cities in the UK, and link the visits with IHBC-hosted seminars to which our council members, skilled practitioners that they are, can contribute. This allows the institute both to raise its profile in different centres and branches, and to provide resources and opportunities for our members.
In line with this we are already planning for our council meeting in Belfast next September, and expect to be in Wales in 2009.
IHBC council
The council meeting was held in the Bakehouse Close offices of Architecture and Design Scotland. A+DS, a non-departmental public body sponsored directly by the Scottish Executive, is the national champion for good architecture, design and planning in the built environment. The welcome by chief executive Sebastian Tombs demonstrated clearly the inter-relationship between the old and the new, and between our two organisations.
In the evening a 10th anniversary reception was held in the Jacobite Room of Edinburgh Castle. A fine clear evening guaranteed stunning views over Edinburgh. Speakers for the evening included Sebastian Tombs (top left), Malcolm Cooper of Historic Scotland (top right), and Scotland branch convenor Charles Strang.
The event also coincided with the public launch of the institute’s new logo and web site, developments which have been so successfully coordinated by our communications and outreach committee chair, Mike Brown. Following an introduction by vice chair Sheila Stones, the formal unveiling was carried out in style by president David Lovie (above) who pulled away the silk cloth to reveal a poster-sized logo.
Placemaking regeneration
The IHBC seminar on placemaking regeneration was intended as a dynamic exploration of UK and Scottish perspectives on regeneration as a place-making process.
Short and punchy presentations
were required, each speaker being limited to eight minutes. The morning session, chaired by our director Seán O’Reilly (bottom right), brought IHBC volunteers, officers and staff from around the UK to describe examples and issues which can apply across national borders.
David Lovie described the acclaimed conservation-led regeneration scheme in Grainger Town, Newcastle. The project worked closely with local children and provided environmental education for all ages.
Fiona Newton, IHBC projects officer, used a Lincolnshire case study to describe how rural regeneration can help in ‘Making Market Towns Marketable’ and how small schemes
in small areas can have a big impact. Hints for developing a successful project included early local involvement, warming up building owners, seeing the project through to the end and trying to group grant aided projects together.
Bob Kindred of Ipswich Borough Council, the IHBC’s government liaison secretary, described the contribution that partnership working with local building preservation trusts (BPTs) made to wider regeneration. The regeneration progress was slow, the losses were high and it would take 780 years to deal with all buildings at risk at the current clear-up rate. So the solution might be partnership regeneration through BPTs.
John Preston of Cambridge City Council, the IHBC’s education officer, described the major challenge in up-skilling. It was also necessary to make the case for change to government, when conservation is spread throughout so many sectors. The historic environment falls into the remit of at least nine of the 25 sector skills councils. The Egan review identified a series of generic skills which are all typical of conservation professionals. The Egan wheel defines the key components of sustainable communities, but the historic environment crosses many of these areas.
Welsh branch representative Nathan Blanchard described the interaction of devolution, the HLF and conservation-led regeneration. He explained how devolved government was creating both opportunities and threats. Devolution came to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) quite early on, with more funds invested in the home nations. Townscape heritage initiatives (THIs) in the home nations have been better delivered, but the HLF has failed to disseminate THI best practice.
Liz Davidson described the Merchant
City THI in Glasgow. The THI had used a big city strategy and small town ideals. It might be in a city but the THI was built on the sense of a small community to make it walkable, welcoming and local.
The afternoon session, chaired by Charles Strang, took a closer look at specifically Scottish issues. Private-sector surveyor Steve Tolson suggested that that the challenge to the private sector was to overcome the tick-box mentality, where bureaucrats prevent proper procurement. Coupled with the prevalent blame culture and over-enthusiastic risk management, projects were delayed and costs inflated, and could never hope to succeed. Successful placemaking required long-term planning. More use should be made of scale economy, using the larger buying power of local authorities working together to reduce costs.
Mark Douglas from Borders Council showed how small towns were being marginalised, with no investment and increasing use as dormitory settlements. One project, which surveyed seven towns, found that around 21,000 properties had defects which would cost Ł154 million to repair. This small towns report, a key document for the sector, was published with the support of other local councils. The findings show a time bomb of physical decay.
Terry Levinthal of the Scottish Civic Trust described opportunities for using planning legislation creatively, such as using wasteland as a conservation tool, and recent changes brought about by the 2006 Planning etc (Scotland) Act. Other legislation that could have a positive role included the Tenement Scotland Act, which puts a requirement on those living in tenements to maintain their properties.
Graham U’ren of Dundas Wilson described further impacts of planning
changes in Scotland. These included not only the new Planning Act but also the raft of forthcoming consultation, including development plan regulations, pre-application consultation regulations, householder permitted development, planning obligations, enforcement regulations and SPP1 The Planning System.
Jim Macdonald of the event’s hosts Historic Scotland reflected on the possibilities of a positive outcome from the day. Scotland, he noted, was a small country and it was thus possible to have a big impact on change. Historic Scotland was up to the challenges set by the new Scottish Government and was seeking to use partnerships to promote best practice.
The seminar sought to identify and agree principles, problems and proposals for regeneration. The lively discussions throughout the day brought out many important key issues:
•  The importance of environmental education as children teach their parents.
•  The need to get at the value of conservation.
•  The need to understand people’s long-term associations with an area. The fact that perception can change the reality of place.
Causes of degeneration
•  Regeneration becomes necessary only after degradation. The causes of degeneration should be analysed and prevention should be a priority.
•  Lack of control is a cause of degeneration, especially in conservation areas.
Successful regeneration
•  Projects have an exit strategy but exit is about finishing. Projects should not just finish: the future strategy should be about stewardship.
•  Successful case studies show that not every one fails.
•  Influencing government policy can work.
•  Much of the legislation is not fit for purpose.
Notes of the event will be made available on the IHBC website. They will be used both by the national office and the branch to direct strategic development and the business plan in the coming years. Fiona Newton, projects@ihbc.org.uk
The view from Edinburgh Castle, courtesy of Historic Scotland
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