A potted history of CBSS 1972 – 2015

Early History

The idea of the CBSS was first considered in the late 1960’s; at that time surveyors were generally employed in County Architects Departments within the larger authorities, usually under a Chief Building Surveyor. The County Architects association, Society for Construction and Architecture in Local Authorities ‘SCALA’ were keen to promote the importance of professional Surveyors. During a SCALA annual general meeting in Warwick the possibility of forming a society of Chief Building Surveyors was floated. SCALA offered their help and a venue at the RIBA for meetings.

The Chief Building Surveyors Society (CBSS) was founded in the early 1970’s, with its first AGM being held on the 11th October 1972 at the RIBA, Portland Place, London. The Society was to provide a forum for surveyors, primarily engaged in the maintenance of public buildings

Founder members

Two of the original driving members were Geoff Dilworth who was Chief Building Surveyor at Gloucestershire CC and Harry Bissett Chief Building Surveyor at Hampshire CC. They circulated all of the SCALA members to encourage their Chief Building Surveyors to join. There were about 6 members at the first meeting in the early 1970’s which spent the meeting drafting a constitution for the basis of the new society.

Venue of meetings

As the CBSS was linked to SCALA via the County Architects nationally they meet for the first 15 years at the RIBA in Portland Place. They then moved to the RICS for a few years and then onto the Chamberlain room at Birmingham City Council offices.
Regionally the Chapters evolved from the meetings of the Chief Building Surveyors in around 1982. The Chapters were centred on the South West, Thames, Central (two chapters combined early on to become Thames & Central), Northern and Eastern.

Summer Schools

From the beginning the CBSS held a summer school which was the highlight of the Society year with the annual dinner and they were always well attended and supported. The first was at the CITB in Bircham Newton, the second was at the BRE in Watford. Over the years the society meet in Durham, York, Abergavenny, Nottingham, Exeter, Lancaster and Chelmsford and then for a number of years at Morton Morrell. However following a fire at Morton Morrell the final summer schools were held at Warwick University. Pressure of work was the end for the summer school; members could not get away from the office to attend over the three days.


The first President of the CBSS was Geoff Dilworth of Gloucestershire County Council 1972-73, over the years there have been 33 different presidents, our last president being Chris Hibberd of West Dorset and Weymouth Council, who holds the record of having held the position of president for a total of 3 years, in 2005-06 and 2013-15. The society has been largely male dominated over its existence, due to a lack of senior lady building surveyors being out there! However the society did have one who became President, Michelle Price-Horne of Nottingham City Council was president 2002-03. A complete list of CBSS Presidents is available here.

Some Members and Memories

  • Steve Evans – Wolverhampton City Council, only a member for a few years before he died at a young age. He was a great magician and member of the magic circle, his tricks we amazing. As we relaxed at summer school he would go through an impromptu routine, you could not see how it was done from any angle, he is greatly missed.
  • Michelle Price Horne – President 2002-03 Nottingham City Council. Michelle was on holiday in Sri Lanka when the Tsunami struck on Boxing Day 2004. Michelle wanted to help and the CBSS raised £1,200 enough for 2 new homes, with further personnel donations being made. Michelle said at the time, the CBSS has acted in its usual coordinated way quickly and proactively to offer practical support, Coordinated Brilliant Supportive Sharing.
  • Tony Wall – President 2001-02 Durham County Council, during his time as president the society moved all its communication with members to email rather than post or fax, how could we work without it today?
  • Arthur Page was Chief Building Surveyor for Lancashire CC and a staunch supporter of the CBSS. Arthur has served in the RAF during the war and was the Chief QS before becoming the Chief Building Surveyor of what was one of the largest County Councils with a vast portfolio of property. He acted as the Master of Ceremonies at the annual dinners which he conducted with dignity and aplomb. The dinners and the speeches were the highlight of the CBSS year. Arthur was still attending meetings into his 80’s and added both wisdom and wit to our debates. He was greatly admired and a much loved member.
  • Morton Morrell Warwickshire – Home of the summer school until it was hit by a major fire in March 2008, for those who went it was an ideal and tranquil setting for the conference away from the busyness of the office, older members still speak of it with fond memories!


Over the years the members of the Society moved from that of purely maintenance to become involved in asset management planning, facilities and estate management, design and modernisation. The Society has evolved in response to the changes such as outsourcing, delegation of budgets and efficiency agendas.

The broad aim of the society was to:

  • Enable property support the delivery of front-line public services.
  • Seek more efficient ways of procuring, managing and maintaining the property required to deliver those services.
  • To promote the use of property that is appropriate for its intended use in terms of suitability, sufficiency, condition, cost, and environmental impact.
  • To improve the stewardship of the environment by reducing energy and water consumption and CO2 emissions.

From about 2010 the significant changes and continual cut back in departments led to a steady decline in members and authorities linked to the Society and the Northern and Eastern Chapters have ceased to function. The South West plus Thames and Central continue but it was agreed across the society that to be part of the larger SPACES was the best way forward and seek to rebuild the surveying membership from within the new Society.

In many ways it is almost like returning home as the CBSS came out of SCALA and both are now within SPACES and Martin Kent of Hampshire County Council (one of the founding authorities) who would have become the 35th President of the CBSS became Joint president of Spaces in October 2015 at their first AGM.

Our thanks go to Robert Mewes who authored this article and contributions from Michael Greaves January 2016.

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