We take a leap from Issue 3 to Issue 6, dated November 1964 this time. The lead article is entitled 'The future of the Ipswich Society' which tells us that at the recent AGM Mr Bernard Reynolds [qv page 5] reported on a Conference of Civic Societies of the Eastern Region he had attended in Norwich on behalf of the Ipswich Society (Wednesday 28 October, 1964).
The following article tells of how the host organisation, The Norwich Society, took delegates on a tour around what would now be called endangered heritage sites in the city. Then on to the Market Place viewed from the City Hall steps.:
"...[we] were told how every building in sight whether old or modern had been decorated to a unified yet subdued colour scheme prepared by the City Architect, and how the two very new buildings had had their facades designed under the watchful eye of the same City Architect who had insisted on carefully co-ordinated pattern, scale, texture and colour to integrate them perfectly into their surroundings without inhibiting their frankly 1960s style."
So to the conference report. Lord Esher, Vice President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, was the main speaker who launched into the 1947 Planning Act as a failure and a great disappointment to all. "It was impossible, it seemed, to legislate to ensure planning with visual sensitivity. There was a state of extreme crisis at the moment needing attention of the utmost urgency.
"The problem was that of bridging two gulfs. The first was the gulf between the public and planning going on behind closed doors leading to public cynicism and even ridicule. The second was the gulf between the English tradition and modern technology which leads to appalling visual conflicts.
"The second gulf was mainly a problem for architects themselves who must stop wearing blinkers while they design their little masterpiece but must relate with care and sensitivity each new building to its environment on a broad scale. The first gulf between public and planners, however, could best be bridged by the civic societies. Their aim must be:-
- The education of public opinion.
- The formulation of a brief for the planners - become the planners' client, in fact.
- To become the consultative body to both public and planners, to open the planning office's doors.
"We are distressed at the spoiling of our cities, said Lord Esher, but even worse (because more permanent) was the destruction of our countryside. Village redevelopment has been a tragic failure, he said, and had better stop altogether until we find out how it should be done. The individual houses were often excellent but the total scene terrible.
"Altogether, said Lord Esher, planners are in the dark and desperately in need of informed advisers and this puts civic societies in the front line." More of this next time.