2013 Yearbook

28 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 3 Conservation and neighbourhood planning Last year, Urban Vision Enterprise was appointed by the community organisation network Locality (see Further Information) as its planning adviser, providing support in developing and running its government-funded, national neighbourhood planning support programme. This included writing the comprehensive Roadmap Guide to Neighbourhood Plans , which is aimed at local communities and presents a complex statutory process in accessible language with practical advice. Urban Vision Enterprise has also done hands-on work with local groups and parish councils preparing neighbourhood plans. This combination of strategic-level and locally focussed work provides a unique perspective on the impacts of national policy and expenditure on local areas. Neighbourhood planning illustrates the changing skills needed by communities and professionals. Those preparing plans have a leadership and coordinating role but also need to involve a much wider community. They often have to deal with complex issues and decisions, such as ensuring that heritage fulfils its social and economic potential. This can require timely support, training and capacity building. Those promoting conservation need to understand the diverse priorities of those preparing neighbourhood plans. Influencing neighbourhood planning bodies requires skills in persuasion, capacity building and community engagement. It also requires knowledge of how historic assets can be used to deliver community benefits, from delivery of sustainable development and growth to the provision of new facilities. The potential for local people to take the lead in planning their area should not be doubted. Many neighbourhood plans are being approached with a rigour that challenges the scepticism of some professionals who have struggled to grasp the potential of the community- led approach. Urban Vision Enterprise’s training has focussed not just on knowledge and understanding, but also on challenging ingrained, top-down cultures. Community projects The work with Locality has demonstrated the urgent need to strengthen the links between active communities and the built environment sector. Community development trusts are often involved with heritage-led regeneration projects, including asset transfer. For such organisations, heritage assets are the means to delivering their social and economic objectives – a means to an end, not the end itself. It is interesting that the Architectural Heritage Fund is looking increasingly to the community sector as the source of heritage-related projects and now accepts applications from a wider range of organisations. In response, heritage organisations and professionals need to be aware of the range of skills needed to deliver successful heritage projects. There are of course the built environment skills including planning, design and understanding heritage assets. There are also project skills including project management and writing funding bids. Then there are business skills such as writing business plans, marketing and facility management. Pugin in North Staffordshire Another strand of Urban Vision Enterprise’s work has involved encouraging local people and schools to appreciate their local environments. During 2012, Urban Vision Enterprise and its partner organisation, Urban Vision North Staffordshire, ran a programme of 43 projects to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Gothic Revival architect AWN Pugin. The programme was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and the EU rural grant programme LEADER (see Further Information). The programme included opportunities to try out traditional craft skills and some of the early participants had been trained sufficiently so that they could lead audience participation initiatives themselves. The Pugin programme also helped to deliver economic benefits, resulting in a 25 per cent increase in footfall in Cheadle town centre where the Pugin Centre is based, with local businesses reporting a 22 per cent increase in trade. Moving forward For the foreseeable future, the combination of adverse economic conditions, restricted access to borrowing and loss of regeneration funding represents a real challenge to the heritage sector, especially in dealing with buildings at risk. Increasingly, the solutions will have to be partnership or community- led, delivered through activities like neighbourhood planning and direct involvement in projects. Fortunately, many community development trusts already have a good track record of using heritage assets to deliver real benefits for their communities. Our approach to heritage skills training must respond to this context, focussing not just on understanding significance and technical skills, but the wider project, planning, business and soft skills needed to deliver heritage projects or to integrate heritage into wider planning and regeneration frameworks. The heritage sector can have an enabling role, providing support to those private and community organisations that actually control heritage assets. Further Information • LEADER www.leader- programme.org.uk • Locality www.locality.org.uk • Urban Vision North Staffordshire www.uvns.org ‘Visual minutes’ from a Locality/Eden Project planning camp