Committee & Contacts

Past Events
Ely - October 2012
Ely - May 2011
Cambridge - June 2010
Ipswich - April 2010
Bury St. Edmunds - June 2009
Cambridge - Sept 2009
Kings Lynn - Oct 2009

October 2014
May 2013
March 2013
August 2012
February 2012
November 2011
June 2011
April 2011
February 2011
Nov 2010
Sept 2010
March 2010
Dec 2009
Sept 2009
June 2009
Dec 2008
Committee minutes
October 2014
July 2014
April 2014
February 2014
November 2013
January 2013
November 2012
July 2012
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December 2011
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December 2010

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Welcome to the East of England Civic and Amenity Societies

The East of England Civic and Amenity Societies is an informal regional cluster of active civic and amenity groups. Its aim is to exchange experience among its members, and to organise meetings on topics of interest to them.


Click here for the

October 2014 e-newsletter


Message from the Chairman

East of England Environmental Forum

On 8 November I attended a meeting of EEEF.
  1. Naomi Stevenson of Natural England talked about the wealth of information in the National Character Area Profiles. It is well worth looking at the one for your area.
  2. David Whiles of the Environment Agency talked about the River Basin Management Plans. There will be a consultation period of 6 months, along with another on flood risk. To make a submission, go here. We noted that agriculture poses problems for water supply, partly because of increasing yields and partly because demand tends to surge, depending on weather. Many farmers are digging their own reservoirs, because supermarkets demand security of supply before they grant contracts.
  3. I gave a report on the work of the Cam Catchment Partnership.
  4. Tom Day of the Herts Local Nature Partnership gave a report of work, funded by the Wildlife Trust, on creating habitat inventories and modelling the potential for improvements. They showed the results on maps, for example the connections between clusters of woodlands or of chalk grasslands.
  5. Emily Fenson of the Forestry Commission talked about tree health. Our region particularly suffers threats to ash and oak, imported from Denmark and Holland by nurseries. Elm yellows disease is widespread in northern France, but is yet to reach us.
  6. It was agreed that the meeting had been useful, with good attendance, and that EEEF should continue to meet annually. We were told that the Regional Biodiversity Forum is also doing well, with meetings three times a year, but the Regional Landscape Forum appears to have become purely virtual, with just email discussions.

October 2014

Historic Environment Forum

On 7 October I attended a meeting of the region's HEF.
  1. There was a presentation of some of the programmes of the Heritage Lottery Fund. In particular, the Heritage Enterprise Fund bridges the gap that prevents a historic building from having a beneficial use, and the Townscape Heritage Fund improves the environment in conservation areas. The wide-ranging Landscape Partnership Fund is designed to make a transformation to the landscape, heritage and communities.
  2. Because of tariff changes, there are now fewer planning applications for solar farms, but some are totally out of scale.
  3. A progress report on the Farrell review of architecture and the built environment has just been published.
  4. The National Trust will be host to a major conference in Cambridge next year of other trusts from around the world.

October 2014

Protecting Your Local Heritage

On Saturday 1 November 2014 we will gather in Peterborough for a one-day meeting on how to better protect listed buildings and other heritage, particularly establishing local lists. There will also be an opportunity to see something of the historic city and its catherdral.
Sign up for the event here.

October 2014

Civic Voice survey

Please complete the Civic Voice regional survey.

September 2014

Power to Change Your Community

Power to Change is a new initiative which will invest up to £150 million to support the development of sustainable community-led enterprises across England. It will be delivered by an independent Trust to be established later this year.

More information

August 2014

Meeting of regional committee

At a meeting of the East of England committee on 16 April I gave a report on the recent regional chairs meeting. In particular we discussed matters of concern to us in relation to the NPPF, and which might go into the Civic Voice manifesto for candidates in the 2015 election. We agreed that I should feed the following points back to Civic Voice:
  • We are concerned that the NPPF appears to allow housing needs to justify intrusion into green belts. While Green Belt boundaries are not sacrosanct any boundary revisions proposed in Local Plans should produce defensible long term boundaries and not be motivated by the scale of alleged local housing need.
  • The system by which developers build to maximise profit will continue to restrict the amount and location of build, and to produce build of the wrong type. There are too few new family houses and too many flats, too often sold to foreigners for investment.
  • The crisis with the affordability of housing will probably be solved only if responsibility to build is restored to local authorities.
  • More attention should be paid to making use of empty buildings, including flats above shops.
  • Solar panels should be confined to less attractive and less productive land.
  • We have concerns about the preservation of Grade 2 heritage buildings at risk.

April 2014

East of England Historic Environment Forum

On 1 April the HEF met in the mews of Palace House in Newmarket, which was built by Charles IIi and is being extensively refubished so as to become a national gallery of Britsih sporting art.

The HEF was told of the consultation about NHPP2, the second National Heritage Protection Plan. Its predecessor NHPP1 led to 10 organisations creating action plans, and to 400 projects, for example one on solar panels in the countryside. (We learnt from the CPRE representative about a huge increase in the number of applications for these to be allowed.) But there was lack of interest in NHPP1 at local level because it was too complex.

NHPP2 will run from 2015 to 2020 and be facilitated by Historic England, overseen by a board that will basically be the national HEF. The consultation will seek views on what should go into the Plan: I suggested Local Listing.

The national review of architecture and the built environment led by Sir Terry Farrell was mentioned as being important and we intend giving it detailed scrutiny at our next meeting. I brought up the matter of the general poor design of new buildings, and it was agreed that the review's proposals to appoint people in each local authority to champion local design quality was therefore important.

We learnt that, nationally, there are now 295 archaeology staff in local authorities, compared with a peak of 410 a few years ago. However, in our region the reduction has been very small.

April 2014

Meeting of regional chairs

When Civic Voice was formed it deliberately excluded any regional voice in its deliberations. This has now changed: its rules now allow an non-executive advisory regional forum so as to reinforce the role of the regions. How formal it will be has not been decided, but an informal meeting of regional chairs took place on 19 March. Among the points made were:
  • The decline in the number of local authority conservation officers is cause for concern. In particular, it has led to a lack of interest in local listing.A number of organisations, including Civic Voice, have combined to form a Localism Alliance, to help protect local assets.
  • Neighbourhood forums can work if they have local-authority support. They can deal with issues such as health and educations as well as planning. However, they may take active people away from civic societies. Civic Voice intends collecting information about what is happening.
  • A Civic Voice business plan for 2014-19 is being drafted. The meeting agreed to recommend that it focus on enhancing activity with civic groups, raising the profile/influence agenda, recruiting volunteers and partners, and generating sustainable funding.
  • Civic Voice has donated £5000 to prepare a Brief history of the civic society movement and is discussinga project to study the Civic Trust archives so as to learn about social history.
  • The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Civic Societies now includes 75 MPs. We were urged to encourage more to join. Civic Voice intends producing a manifesto which parties campaigning for the 2015 election will be asked to support. We are invited to suggest issues for inclusion.
  • The next Civic Day will be on 21 June. Each region is invited to appoint a champion to promote it.

March 2014

Historic Environment Forum

Peter Lee reports from the recent meeting of the region's Historic Environment Forum:
  • Splitting of English Heritage into two bodies: The charitable body with the properties will retain the name English Heritage and the name of the body with the statutory protection and advisory role will be Historic England. The deadline for comments is 24th January. Concerns were expressed about resourcing, of course, loss of profile and the tendency for the questions in the document to be rather bland. Perhaps Societies need to say that the wrong questions are being asked. It was agreed that a key element of the present quasi-regional structure is national expertise delivered locally and that with the loss of conservation and archaeological expertise from local authorities, this was more important than ever. Listing will be transferred wholly to Historic England from DCMS. The National Heritage Protection Plan will be amended following the consultation. The plan is for the new Charity EH to be in place by April 2014.
  • Robyn Llewellyn, regional director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, urged potential bidders for grant to make more use of the project enquiry form on the HLF web-site ‐ like a queuing slip at the Deli. It prevents queue jumping and is not part of the assessment process. Grants for places of worship are now wholly HLF — she emphasised that there must be a community element and a budget for that.

November 2013

Charter to save the countryside

CPRE asks everyone to sign a charter with 3 key demands:
  • Don't sacrifice our countryside ‐ our open spaces are being destroyed unnecessarily. Previously developed brownfield sites should be reused first.
  • A fair say for communities ‐ the cards are stacked in favour of developers. We want a democratic planning system that gives local people a stronger voice.
  • More housing ‐ in the right places ‐ The country needs affordable homes. They must be sensitively located, with excellent environmental standards and high quality design.

November 2013

Heritage Counts 2013

The report for our region is here

November 2013

Our regional economy

Some interesting facts and figures showing the strength of our regional economy are here.

November 2013

Our waterway system

Defra has has significant obligations under the EU Water Framework Directive, but is being subjected to continuing funding cuts. Therefore it is promoting the creation of a nation-wide network of third-sector organisations to work with the Environment Agency, water companies and other appropriate bodies. The project has the name Catchment Based Approach. Among the threats to the waterway system that the network will address are
  • diffuse pollution: chemical, microbiological, metals, highway run-off etc
  • nutrient overload
  • invasive non-native species
  • oxygen depletion and anaerobic conditions

November 2013

Wellbeing East

Following the demise of COVER, the umbrella group for voluntary organisations, Wellbeing East has been set up to take up its work in health and care. At its first full meeting on 22 October we learnt something of the complicated bureacratic structure of this sector, with Health and Wellbeing Boards and Clinical Commissioning Groups among other bodies. More information is here. At the meeting I asked how this structure will handle the issue of loneliness to which I refer below, but I did not really get an answer.

October 2013


One of the things to which I drew attention in a talk I gave last month to the regional branch of the RTPI is that the biggest killer is loneliness, so it was good to hear Health Secrtary Jeremy Hunt take this up. According to the Campaign against Loneliness,
  • Over half of all people aged 75 and over live alone
  • Half of all older people say television is their main company
  • 6% of older people leave their house once a week or less
Some of the remedies surely are:
  • Careful design of new communities: no steps, seats, cafes, green spaces, community halls — should engage old people in the process
  • Neighbours should make sure nobody is neglected — residents associations get active
  • Get older people to volunteer — the biggest benefit is to themselves

October 2013

Dash for gas

I recently heard a lecture by a senior executive of Royal Dutch Shell, who told us that by 2050 global gas demand will have doubled. It is not only an important fuel, but a source of chemicals for plastics, detergents, coatings etc. He said that, while replacing coal with gas is the fastest and cheapest way to meet CO2 reduction targets, in Europe the trend is actually in the opposite direction: coal use is increasing and gas decreasing. On fracking, he maintained that it is completely without danger so long as it is properly managed, but he was pessimistic about overcoming public resistance in the UK. Liquid natural gas is big business for Shell; some of the new ships to transport it are more than half a kilometre long!

October 2013

Keeping local services going

Earlier this year my wife and I had a holiday in the island of Jura off the west coast of Scotland, which has a population of 180. The local shop was struggling so, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Community Right to Bid was used and it is now run by volunteers. Its web site tells us that there are currently 301 community owned shops in the UK and only 13 ever closed. The Jura ambulance service also is staffed by volunteers, and throughout the UK community transport is becoming increasingly important to maintain village bus services.

September 2013

Dementia research

According to Alzheimers Research UK, while UK research expenditure on cancer is £590 million a year, for dementia it is only £50 million. But dementia costs the UK economy £23 billion per year, twice that for cancer There are currently 800,000 people with dementia in the UK There will be over a million by 2021 according to Alzheimer's Society.

September 2013

Natural Health Service

At a recent meeting of the Greater Cambridgeshire Local Nature Partnership it was suggested that getting people out to walk in the woods is better than going to the gym, because fewer drop out. And dancing for fun is successful with older people, while vigorous house cleaning is also good exercise. It was remarked that the money is with GP commissioning groups, and they should be lobbeyed to spend some of it to promote such things.

September 2013

Historic Environment Forum

Some of the things I learnt at the recent meeting of the region's Historic Environment Forum:
  • The region has 1730 Grade 1 listed buildings, and 1198 conservation areas
  • Management of English Heritage's 400 properties, such as Audley End, is to be passed to an independent charity, which will receive an endowment of £80 million to make up some of the maintenance shortfall. It is not yet clear who will appoint the board of the new charity, as the properties will remain under the ownership of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.
  • The Arts Council is to focus more on the growth of cultural tourism and the visitor economy.
  • Over 300 communities are engaged in neighbourhood planning activities. 23 of them are in our region, with Cringleford near Norwich the most advanced. Some local authorities are taking the alternative route of working closely with communities in the framing of their Local Plans. Neighbourhood plans can only promote development, not resist it. The process is very expensive, in both money and time.

July 2013

Goods delivery

At a meeting on transport organised by the Technology Strategy Board we learnt that 22% of road traffic is NHS-related. There was also discussion of the need to encourage stakeholders to work together to devise new models for the delivery of goods, particularly in towns. They should cooperate so that there is one delivery per day of everything, outside the times of congestion, and there should be warehouses with goods positioned near customers. I drew attention to a service provided by our local John Lewis. I can go to their shop in town and choose what I want; then 3 minutes later I can pick it up from their warehouse at a Park & Ride. If more retailers collaborated to do something similar, it would help to reverse the decline in town centres.

June 2013


I have learnt a number of interesting things from a lecture by a Home Office official:
  • Net migration to the UK had been negative for two decades up to 1982. Since then it has been positive in almost every year. The annual rate was 216,000 in the year ending December 2011, but by September 2012 this had reduced to 153,000.
  • The decrease is largely due to a reduction in entry by fake students pretending to attend courses below university level.a
  • In 2012 there were 21,800 applicants for asylum.
  • Most of the university students that come are postgraduate. Of the university students that arrived in 2004, about 1 in 5 was still here 5 years later.
  • More than half of the population thinks that immigration should be reduced a lot, though migrants with professional expertise are regarded more favourably.

May 2013

Peter Landshoff: pvl at damtp.cam.ac.uk

Chairman, East of England Civic and Amenity Societies


Civic Voice now has 290 member societies, of which 29 are in our region:

  • Horndon on the Hill Society
  • Hunstanton Civic Society
  • Huntingdon & Godmanchester Society
  • Ipswich Society
  • King’s Lynn Civic Society
  • March Society
  • Milton Conservation Society
  • Norwich Society
  • Peterborough Civic Society
  • Radlett Society & Green Belt Association
  • Civic Society of St Ives
  • The Stowmarket Society
  • The Sudbury Society
  • Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust