Communities and Local Government CommitteeWritten evidence from Michael Holden

A Major OmissionCulture and Cultural Facilities

The word culture is not used in the proposed document except in relation to heritage conservation (section 178). This is a gross omission of a major element of community life in which Planning has a large role to play.

The arts and its concomitant creative industries are a major revenue earner for the United Kingdom in world markets, international tourism and internal tourism. They are the essential meeting places for the community and are catalysts in community development and bonding. They populate town and village centres in the evenings and promote ancillary revenues in restaurants, hotels, and in retail generally. The majority of such facilities are in town centres but they can also make significant changes to the image and vitality of rural areas. It is essential that when the Minister speaks in his forward of the importance of ensuring that “the spirit of place thrives” the document that follows recognises the major role of culture in our town and village centres.

I shall advance the argument in respect of performances spaces for this is my field of expertise but it can be paralleled in art galleries and museums. Performance spaces are defined for this purpose as theatres, concert halls, arenas and cinemas, village halls and open air theatres.

Attendance at cultural events is recorded in the DCMS Taking Part Survey 2010–11 as being 67.1% of all adults of 16 or more years of age. The survey identifies that the Cinema attracts 21 million individuals aged 16+ each year, theatres 27 million, concert halls and music rooms 10 million. Furthermore people attend many times each year so that total annual attendances are many times this number. It must be noted that 60% of these audiences are defined by those whose education has, or will, extend past the age of 18. These will be the higher achievers in their communities and so bring higher earnings and entrepreneurial ability to town centres for the wider benefit of the community.

Performance spaces attract large numbers of people to town centres, past the shop windows of retailers so familiarising them with the range of goods and services available locally. Travel to a cultural facility familiarises the audience with the transport infrastructure so that they may be more able to use it when returning to purchase those goods and services. In their visits they will use catering, hotel and other associated retail facilities adding to the evening economy and the peaceful population of town centres in the evening and notably the late evening. For major cities performance spaces will be important components of the tourism industry.

In a survey carried out by the Tourist Board several years ago the question was asked “what makes a city?” In the responses the largest number listed a “cathedral” but the second highest listing was a “theatre”. This is not surprising when one considers that auditoria are the only places where the community can meet without racial or religious homogeneity yet have a common emotional and intellectual experience. Where they can meet and discuss these experiences in a building which is commonly “owned” and enjoyed.

Performance spaces not only enliven and image our communities they bond our communities. It is for this reason that they are so important in regeneration. In West Germany, after the Second World War, some cities chose to use their scarce resources to build theatres before housing and industry to envision a future and raise public and commercial belief in it. The cities which did this developed more quickly and thrived faster than those that chose apparently more rational paths. The Minister has recognised this in his forward when he speaks of the “spirit of place”. In encouraging new town and village centre development, in attracting new businesses and new housing performance spaces have much to contribute.

For some elements of the cultural sector (commercial cinemas, arenas, small music spaces attached to public houses etc) planning considerations are not dissimilar to other retail enterprises as they can capitalise their developments from their own trading resources. But for most performance spaces there is a planning concern in respect of land and property valuations that is not recognised in the new proposals.

There are a little over 1,400 permanently licensed theatres in the United Kingdom. Additionally there are many more village, church and school halls where occasional performances are put on and these are of enormous importance in building and linking communities. No matter how different your own background or experience may be if your child, spouse or relation is involved in the performance (or exhibition of art or other event) you will join with others to enjoy and applaud the results. There is no more effective (secular) way of joining new members intimately into their community.

Of these 1,400 performances spaces 46% are operated by local authorities, 34% by trusts (almost all charities) 20% are commercially operated. In all local authorities are the freeholders of more than 50% of annually licensed performance spaces and a larger proportion of village and other halls. About 10% of these premises are in a position to generate from trading the resources to buy and sell capital assets in the general market leaving over 1,250 which are incapable of earning sufficient margins to replenish their capital.

Of these 1,400 theatres 60% are supported from the public purse (mostly local authorities but including the Arts Councils and other government and lottery funding). Because there is little or no return on capital it is practical only to value these buildings by the residual value of the land on which they sit. It is a fact that a community may join together, with local government and central resources support, to create a new cultural facility at considerable cost only to know, as soon as it opens it has become in commercial terms virtually valueless. In a climate where there is a presumption for new development and pressure on local authorities to realise potential values from buildings where they may also be providing revenue support, the temptation to realise potential capital may be overwhelming. For independent owners and trusts there will be similar pressures. The community’s accumulation of capital in these cultural buildings should be preserved but without obstructing re-planning and redevelopment of town centres.

In the spirit of the NPPF, where new developments are encouraged or required to make contributions to improvements in essential infrastructure, this can be done by applying a special condition for the re-development of cultural buildings. This would be that the redevelopment of these buildings should be compensated to the community by a sum equivalent to the current building and land cost. This sum to be held in a special fund for the replenishment of cultural buildings in the future. A new development incorporating a new cultural facility would be able to draw down on this fund (or off-set the compensation due on the loss of the original building). This compensation and fund might be known as Cultural Capital to distinguish it from other community compensation due from development. By this means the public investment in cultural buildings may be sustained yet make redevelopment of such buildings practically possible, so invigorating town centres. Cultural Capital having a cash value ensures too that replacement facilities are truly equivalent, not a passing nod to the concept of replenishment.

Recognition of the importance of the cultural facilities in a community should be introduced into the text of the draft National Planning Policy Framework and the following suggestions may be helpful:

Section 10, second bullet point—insert italics “...and supports its physical and cultural health and well being”; and

Section 18, add a bullet point—“A special valuation is to be made of cultural buildings to preserve the community’s investment to be known as Cultural Capital and shall be the current replacement cost of the building and its land purchase at current values, this valuation to be charged to the redevelopment and used by the community to replenish cultural building stock, including equivalent value replacement within the proposed development.”

Section 23, add a bullet point as the third one—“the provision of cultural buildings, performance spaces, galleries, museums and the like.”

Section 30, third bullet point—insert italics—“....the performance of centres including the role of cultural facilties.

Section 73, fifth bullet point—add italics “....environmental enhancement including the provision of cultural facilities”; and

Section 76, Amend title and throughout to read “...viability of town and village centres”.

Section 76, add new bullet point as the fourth point—“recognise the importance of cultural facilities in drawing people to the centre of their communities enhancing their vitality and strengthening community bonds through attending performances and other gatherings.”

Section 79, insert italics—“....for retail, cultural and leisure development.....”.

Section 124, insert new third bullet point—“ensure access to cultural facilities to promote community cohesion and well being; and”.

Section 125, new final bullet point—“the provision of cultural facilities, particularly performance spaces, which encourage public evening activity to populate developments and enhance the evening economy and community cohesion.”

Section 126, first bullet point, insert italics—“...meeting places, cultural facilities, public house...”.

Section 126, second bullet point insert at end “....needs including cultural facilities by preserving existing Cultural Capital”.

September 2011

Prepared 20th December 2011