CIVIC chiefs backed a new scheme that would see community groups help with conservation efforts in Winchester.

The Historic Environment Team at the city council has secured funding from Heritage England for the two-year pilot scheme that would see community history and photography groups assist the council in conservation area management and amenity plans.

The scheme would see local groups receive free professional training on how best to document or photograph listed buildings and in return the council would help the groups secure future funding for other projects.

Currently Winchester has 37 conservation areas designated between the late 1960s and 1990s and 17 were included on the national at risk register in 2017, including the city of Winchester.

Many areas are deemed at risk because they don’t have up to date management or assessment plans, which can lead to them suffering inappropriate developments, street clutter and a lack of enhancement schemes.

The pilot scheme will focus on removing conservation areas in Winchester High Street and St Giles from the at risk register, as well as setting up best practice for larger schemes, both in Winchester and nationally, with all data collected from the pilot made publicly available to help encourage similar schemes.

Corporate Director, Steve Tilbury said that the specific areas the pilot would cover were chosen to give the team a broad cross section of as many potential conservation issues as possible. He also stressed that it was important that the council did not seek to “over bureaucratise” the scheme, and asked councillors not to seek to impose any structure “They need the freedom to get on with this,” he said.

WCC Historic Environment Team Leader Louise Dandy said: “I am very excited about this project. It is a great, cost effective new way of constructing conservation management area plans and in a way that the local community can really make a difference.”

Councillor Fiona Mather wished the team luck and hoped that the project went well.

She said: “I think it’s a fantastic project and I’m sure there will be no shortage of volunteers - through youth groups volunteers organisations, and the universities.”