IHBC Yearbook 2013

R E V I E W 13 CHAIR’S REVIEW JO EVANS, IHBC CHAIR Writing my contribution to the Yearbook always seems to run in parallel with other seasonal activities such as my car’s MOT and writing Christmas thankyou letters. All three tasks are time limited – after all, a thank-you letter received in midMarch never seems as sincere. However, considering the way my daughters are shaping up this year, the Evans letters will go out in March (if I really nag). Thank-you letters are a polite necessity but also an opportunity to look back on Christmas and the achievements of the past year. In that respect the Chair’s Review is a little like a thank-you letter and I think that despite facing another year of cuts, a new national policy context in England, changes to planning legislation in all the home countries and a general unease about the future direction of conservation, we still have cause to be thankful. Arguably, this is a good time for those working in the historic environment and the design of buildings and towns because these subjects seem to be everywhere at the moment, particularly on TV (I still think Mike Leigh should tackle a conservation-based gritty social drama but he has not replied to my letters). This may be something of a double-edged sword but much of the coverage, including the recent BBC documentary series The Planners, has portrayed our concerns for heritage as a resource in a positive light. I think the diligence and fair-mindedness of so many of our profession were clearly shown in the BBC series. If I was to write an IHBC thank-you letter, there are a number of notable things that I would include that have contributed to our IHBC year. First, the NPPF was not the calamity that some expected. After the herculean e"ort of learning to love PPS* and weaning ourselves o" the familiarity of PPG%*, it seemed an insult. Just as we become accustomed to a new policy statement, they are all scrapped and we have to content ourselves with just a section of a new national document. But it is not as disastrous as we thought. Of course we have to wait for the outcome of the Planning Practice Guidance reviews but I hope that will feature in next year’s thank-you letter. There have been unsettling proposals for change in Wales and Scotland which have required a comprehensive response from the national branches. Thankfully we have an extremely capable system of consultation responses organised at national branch level and volunteers who examine proposals in forensic detail. Those responses have been as incisive as always. Of course, I have to dedicate a paragraph in my thank-you letter to the work of consultations coordinator James Caird. He and his band of keen-eyed scrutineers of policy change and legal tweaks are always thorough, measured, articulate and passionate. They deserve all our thanks because their work helps us to retain our influence, appear always well-informed and stay up to date. The strength of the IHBC, of course, lies with its volunteers. I’d love to send each of them a fragrant thank-you letter and a box of chocolates/book token/bunch of flowers/bottle of champagne (delete as appropriate). Everyone who volunteers, organises, contributes or just turns up deserves a big thank you. The IHBC is a special community and one in which we all contribute. I am a member of other professional organisations that demand little beyond the subscription but perhaps because of that I don’t find it so easy to join in. So I exhort you to get involved. It’s fun and it’s useful and I know you’ll thank me in the end. (I’m sorry, I seem to have taken on the same nagging tone I use with my daughters – ‘Write those thank you letters. By March at the latest!’) The work of the branches and committees this year has again exceeded all expectations. The dedication and skill of our members is jaw-dropping. If I single anyone out I will be justifiably accused of favouritism, but I do want to express my gratitude on behalf of all IHBC members to the committee chairs and their members and the local branch committees who work hard in the background with little promise of chocolates or flowers. We are all indebted to the hardworking sta" of the national o!ce, too. They are small but beautifully formed and tirelessly e!cient. We would be bereft without them. So, in conclusion, thank you to all our members for sticking with us and welcome to new members. Stay with us, volunteer, go to a branch meeting, anything, just join in and this time next year you might receive that bunch of flowers and a lovely box of chocolates as a thank you! Jo Evans, chair@ihbc.org.uk