TrustNews January 1987
Amenity & Preservation Societies are more important than ever before
(Article contributed by Keith Egleston)
Amenity and Preservation Societies are now more important than ever before - for three reasons.
The first is that we have seen increasing evidence that Central Government is not abiding by the conventions of our Planning System built up over 40 years and is using its powers for its own reasons as far as development is concerned to over-ride the wishes of local communities.
The second is that although local Councils often declare themselves in favour of creative conservation - in the same way as they are against sin - they are apt to do little about it. The reality is that they are often too much influenced by party politics to judge cases on their merits or to take a long-term view, especially where their own interests are concerned.
The third reason is that, by and large. the local public is very docile about environmental matters and only makes its voice heard when it is too late, at the end rather than at the beginning, when something awful is foisted on it, such as a building out of context in height, scale or design with its setting, or over-development in the wrong place.
Of course there are many areas where creative conservation is a fact; they are areas where there is a long-standing or new built-in ethos and pride in both local government and the local community in creative conservation - and the results show. To mention a few - Chester, Durham, Norwich, Ludlow, Richmond (Yorks.), Haddington (E. Lothian), Bath and latterly Shrewsbury spring to mind. York of course, but largely owing to York Civic Trust in the early days, and very interestingly Bradford.
Winchester ought to be in this category, but although it has made impressive strides over the last five years, I don't think it is there yet. If it was, 60/61 Colebrook Street would have been handled differently.
Throughout the country most local Councils - and Winchester is no exception - welcome strong, virile Amenity Societies and Preservation Trusts. They know that they are apolitical and can bring a wealth of experience and professional knowledge ,with objectivity and single-mindedness, to conservation and development matters.
The best working arrangement is for such bodies to work in conjunction with local Councils in the form of a continuing creative dialogue both sides understanding that on some issues there will be disagreement. That is how the Winchester Preservation Trust works.
But here we come to numbers. Numbers count for they reflect a Preservation Society's virility and its ability to keep in touch with its members, who incidentally, are also electors. In brief, within reason, the greater the number and spread of members the greater the influence with the Council Chamber.
It is for this reason that the Winchester Preservation Trust values every single one of its members. Membership is a barometer of its efforts and it is most encouraging that at this critical time it has increased to over 800. It is widespread and nationally influential as befits England's ancient capital. But new members are urgently wanted and welcomed. So I will make this plea to our present members. Please let your Council know of your individual views on planning and development controversies - they are very important; they help the Council to better represent you.
And please help by persuading people who are sympathetic to the aims of the Winchester Preservation Trust, which is open to everyone, to become a member. You and they will be helping in the task of guarding Winchester against despoilation and helping the Trust in its efforts to reinforce and improve Winchester's individual identity as a great European Historical City, in conjunction with all other like-minded people and bodies.
There are plenty of challenges ahead, some of which are reported in this Newsletter.
(Keith is a member of the Council of the Trust, he is a former Director of the Heritage Education Group of the Civic Trust and is currently working on a number of projects for the National Trust)
Footnote: A Membership Recommendation Form is enclosed with this Newsletter. Please make use of it.