Today we announce the results of our campaign to find Coventry’s Favourite Conservation Area. After a three week online campaign, which included over 100 social media posts, and a vote at a meeting of the Coventry Society, we finally made the choice about which Conservation Area to submit for Civic Voice’s England’s Favourite Conservation Area competition. Last year this was won by Swindon’s Railway Village.
Coventry’s favourite Conservation Area is (roll of drums and suitable delay etc) – Hilltop – Coventry’s Cathedral Quarter.
People asked for the reasons why they voted for Hilltop said:
- Every time I walk up Hill Top treading on those cobbles I get goose pimples, I feel I have gone back in time. I feel it is very atmospheric.
- Beautiful buildings; historic heart of the city; represents a thread of history through the ages; needs much more recognition locally, regionally, nationally. Currently does not have the recognition it deserves and this needs to be rectified.
- This is a beautiful place with a unique combination of new and old, reconciliation, culture, tolerance and respect for everybody.
- Beautiful area in the heart of Coventry, that the Council planners have not destroyed yet.
- Largely unspoiled historic area of city.
- Historic and iconic.
- Because it’s so beautiful, and it has so many interesting buildings from different periods in one location in our city.
- Because it is a quarter, of the two cathedrals, the Guildhall, the cobbled lanes and the Herbert.
- It’s an area that has survived over all the years and where the city grew from, the Cathedrals the guild hall the timber frame buildings – it’s just amazing.
- This is the most historic part of Coventry as a unit left standing. It also contains a world heritage site and is widely known.
- It is the essence of medieval Coventry.
The runner up was Stoke Green, which wows local residents with its beautiful parks and avenues and sense of community.
In third place was Lady Herbert’s Garden and the Burges. Support for this area was tainted by concern about the current state of the area.
The next stage will be for the Society to put forward a strong case for Hill Top being England’s favourite Conservation Area. We believe that we have a strong case. In 1976 it was given “outstanding status” by the Department of the Environment. There are more listed buildings in the Conservation Area than almost anywhere else in the country and the submission is backed by the people of Coventry.
But our involvement in this campaign is not just a “bit of fun”. The Coventry Society is seriously concerned about the future of our Conservation Areas in the absence of a Conservation Officer or any paid staff working in Conservation in the city.
There are two important elements in the planning system that are required for a Conservation Area.
- A Conservation area appraisal document. This document records the special architectural and historical interest of the designated (or proposed) area and identifies opportunities for enhancement.
- A Management Plan presents Proposals and Actions that will guide and manage future change, enhancement and preservation of a Conservation Area.
The designation of a Conservation Area is only a useful planning tool if it’s Appraisal and Management Plan are up to date and relevant. Otherwise developers can pretty much get away with anything. The city’s previous Conservation Officer had introduced a programme for reviewing and updating all of the Appraisals and Management Plans for the city. Before his unfortunate departure the society supported his review and updating of the Hill Top and Lady Herbert’s Garden and the Burges Conservation Areas. In his absence no further reviews have taken place.
As well as updating the Appraisals and Management Plans the Conservation Officer’s role is to prepare the documentation for additional Conservation Areas. The recently approved Coventry Local Plan proposed two new Conservation Areas in the city: Earlsdon and Brownshill Green. Work has already commenced on the appraisal of the Earlsdon Area. Following a public petition the Conservation Officer organised community workshops in 2016. Many members of the Coventry Society and local community participated in training workshops and the appraisal of streets in Earlsdon. However this work has not been progressed since the departure of the Conservation Officer.
No work has progressed at all on the designation of the Brownshill Green conservation area appraisal.
The Coventry Society is willing to support the City Council with the designation and updating of the City’s conservation areas but it cannot do this on its own and the appointment of a new Conservation Officer is becoming a priority for the city.
Another task of a Conservation Officer is to recommend action to address Conservation Areas that have been designated by Historic England as being “At risk”. Currently there are three Conservation Areas in the city that have been so defined. These are Lady Herbert’s Garden, London Road and Naul’s Mill. Two of these areas are within the city’s Heritage Action Zone and there are prospects for their improvement. However for the third meeting running, nobody from the City Council turned up for the last meeting of this multi-million pound project. What is going on???
It’s time for the City Council to get its act together on conservation!