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President's Blog August 2017

Date: 7/8/2017

Whilst 'planning' is, in the views of certain commentators, required to take the blame for many of the current ills of our society, rather perversely including for such disparate issues as house price inflation and the prevalence of obesity, I do think, however, that it is important for us to remember the positives that proactive, good, planning can readily bring to the table.

Accordingly, on that basis, I think it is important for us all to note that the 28th of September will mark the 50th anniversary of what I personally consider to be a really important and longstanding 'planning' achievement. That was the designation of this country's first Conservation Area.

Following on from that, Historic England tells us that there are now over 8,000 Conservation Areas throughout England which have been designated because of their special architectural or historic interest. It is clear that these are immensely valued in so many diverse ways.

In respect of the specific September 1967 timeline, really quite quickly after the enacting of the Civic Amenities Act which was in July of that year, the historic town centre of Stamford was designated as the country's first Conservation Area. For those unsure of Stamford's location it's in the attractive rolling landscape of southern Lincolnshire.

If you're not yet familiar with Stamford, it is a magnificent example of our Georgian heritage and it has been considered to be the country's finest stone town with Sir John Betjeman eloquently describing Stamford as being "England's most attractive town". But I'm quite sure that Bath and various other historic places may well have something to say about all that!

The more detailed chronology relating to that historic designation directly relates to the work of a planning officer! As early as 1963, the then Deputy Planning Officer, Dr K R Fennell, produced a report highlighting the fact that half of the then listed buildings in the whole county of Lincolnshire were located in Stamford. As such he argued that their ongoing protection should be a matter of national, not just local, concern.

Accordingly Lincoln County Council, as it was then constituted, was well placed to act expediently when that new legislation came into force.

Indeed, it's an interesting aside to note in their 2007 publication, marking the 40th anniversary of the designation of the Conservation Area, that the Stamford Civic Society committed to print their view that a statue should be erected in the town to commemorate the contribution made by Dr Fennell.

Whilst many of us may occasionally be pleased to be commended for our work and for our contributions, I think this is the only instance that I'm aware of whereby such a monument has been proposed to recognise the contribution of the Deputy Planning Officer.

Today, because of the pioneering efforts of Dr Fennell and his colleagues, Stamford is a highly desirable place to live, work and to visit, and it is generally accepted that a lot of the town's attraction and prosperity as a place comes directly from the widely held perception of the value of its buildings and townscape. But, importantly, it's not a museum and well thought out, quality development proposals are actively supported; although the obvious sensitivity of considering new development within such an historic environment has its challenges.

The quality of Stamford's intrinsic heritage is also widely celebrated and, from the 21st to 24th September, the third biennial Georgian Festival will be taking place in the town. There is also a specific related 50th anniversary heritage/conservation event

I know all about this as, I'm proud to say, it now falls within the extended remit of my day job to protect the heritage of this special place.

Clearly there are so many other special places, all across the country, that equally benefit, both environmentally and commercially, from the value that can be attributed to and that can be derived from the ongoing safeguarding of their heritage.

So, as a parting thought, let's all remember something important when we are having to deal with those contentious everyday planning and development issues. Let's be aware and remind ourselves that the good quality schemes and places that we deliver today may well contribute to the heritage and wellbeing of all our communities in the future

Steve Ingram, President 2017/18

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