The Management of Historic Parks
Jane Wilson and Matthew Tickner
|Above left: Heaton Park, Manchester - the core of the 18th century park, including the ha ha
shown here, has recently been restored with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Key
to the restoration of this major public park was the removal of a large number of trees to
recreate views to and from the house. Above right: the restoration included provision of discreet and carefully placed
signage to help interpretation of important features.
The term 'historic
parks and gardens' encompasses a vast range of types, styles, sizes
and ages, from major inner city public parks like Hyde Park in
London or Stanley Park in Liverpool to the parks and gardens of
country houses such as Stowe in Buckinghamshire or Sissinghurst
in Kent. As well as these rather high profile examples there is
also a great wealth of lesser known, but still highly valued historic
parks and gardens throughout Britain. Planning Policy Guidance
note 15 (1) notes that, 'England is particularly rich in the designed
landscapes of parks and gardens, and the built and natural features
they contain. The greatest of these are as important to national,
and indeed international, culture as are our greatest buildings.'
Many are included on English Heritage's Register of Parks and
Gardens of Special Historic Interest and its equivalents in Scotland
and Wales (2). Others are included on local lists, and many more
All these historic landscapes are sensitive to change
and as dynamic assets they require careful maintenance (the day
to day operations such as grass- and hedge-cutting), management
(the longer term planning and policies and organisation of staff),
and renewal (cyclical replacement of features such as herbaceous
planting). If inappropriate changes are made to management and
maintenance regimes, the design intention can be eroded. For example,
self-sown trees might establish in an area where a grazing or
mowing regime is stopped and thus alter the balance of the landscape
by, for example, obscuring historic views.
A park is often the
product of several centuries of history. It may have been established
in the 15th century as a deer park, redesigned as a more decorative
formal park in the 17th century, altered again in the English
landscape style in the 18th, adapted for sporting use in the 19th
century, with additions of recreational facilities in the 20th
century. This often leaves a landscape rich in layers of archaeological
remains and in features of great historic and ecological value
such as veteran trees and ancient woodland.
Up to the end of the
19th century, the day-to-day management and maintenance of private
parkland – trees, woodland and pastoral grassland – is likely
to have remained fairly consistent. Changes during the 20th century
have often been radical, both in altering the fabric of such landscapes
and in their management. The early 20th century saw a decline
in country estates, with many sites divided and sold. Change in
use for these sites, often involving conversion to schools, hospitals
or hotels, and sometimes accelerated by military requisition during
World War I or II, had repercussions for the landscape, for instance
in the imposition of new patterns of circulation, additional buildings
and sports facilities, and in the sale of farmland. A key element
of this was often the loss of the walled kitchen garden, an important
part of the economy and purpose of private historic parks, which
both sustained and required high levels of horticultural expertise.
In difficult times, resources for maintenance were often greatly
reduced, resulting in changes to historic maintenance regimes.
These changes in use and management/ maintenance are likely to
have had severe impacts on significant elements of the park or
garden, some irreversible and others which it may be possible to
mitigate or repair.
|New planting restoring the historic pattern of trees in the parkland at Stowe, Buckinghamshire. The work forms part of the ongoing restoration of the site by the National Trust.
The many and
varied elements of designed landscapes such as parkland planting,
lodges, statuary, garden buildings, drives and rides, water features,
pleasure grounds, formal gardens and walled gardens are all vulnerable
in different ways. The pressure for development and the limited
resources available for care of the landscape will always be major
factors in the management of parks and gardens and are often at
the heart of the key issues facing many designed landscapes in
The complex nature of managing historic landscapes can
be illustrated by considering an avenue of trees that was originally
planted in the late 17th century as part of an extensive formal
layout centred on a large mansion. Over the following centuries
the avenue has grown and matured, and many of the trees have died
and been replaced by trees of different species, planted in differing
alignments and spacing. The other avenues in the pattern have
been removed and the original house converted to use as a hospital.
Much of the context and meaning of the avenue has been lost as
well as its physical fabric. However, the owners and users of
the site still value the avenue as a remnant of a lost designed
landscape, for the ecological interest of the surviving 17th century
trees as veterans, and for the therapeutic benefits of the mature
trees as visible heritage.
||At Manor House Gardens, a small public park in London, fencing appropriate to the historic landscape was put in place
to control dogs – a common source of conflict in such sites.
If no action is taken, the avenue will
continue to deteriorate so the managers of the site need to make
some difficult decisions regarding the future of the feature. Should
they try to restore the avenue? Should they keep the trees as individual
specimens? Should they replant the gaps with young trees? Should
they take out the trees that were planted later or fell and replant
so that all the trees are the same age and the original appearance
of the avenue is restored?
Generally the conservation of surviving
fabric, such as any remaining 17th century trees, would have top
priority, along with recording evidence of past designs such as
any archaeological remains indicating the positions of lost trees.
Finally the repair of the avenue may be undertaken if appropriate.
This might involve the removal of inappropriately planted replacement
trees (species and/or location). However this again calls for
careful decision making, as these trees may be mature specimens
of considerable amenity and ecological value. In a public park
in particular these issues are made even more difficult by the
likelihood of a hostile reaction to tree felling from the public.
There is no simple answer to this kind of situation. Rather, there
needs to be a considered approach to management of the whole historic
landscape based on the best information possible and involving
those who live in, use, own or are otherwise concerned with the
site in making decisions on its future. Various management tools
have been developed which can give a structure to this process
and we will look at these next.
MANAGEMENT PLANS AND OTHER MANAGEMENT TOOLS
exist to assist in managing historic sites and the most effective
tool at present is the conservation management plan. The usefulness
of this type of plan lies in its logical process and its inclusiveness.
Fundamentally, a conservation management plan looks at what currently
exists, lays out what is important about it - its 'significance'
- and explains what is damaging or threatening this significance.
Based on this analysis, it then sets out a vision for the future
of the site and provides management policies that will conserve
and enhance the significance of the site and form a foundation
for its future management.
Determining the significance of the
site is thus crucial. How is this done? There are some simple
- Is the site on the English Heritage Register of Parks
and Gardens of Special Historic Interest or one of the other regional
- Does it contain listed buildings or scheduled ancient
- Is it linked with an important designer?
- Is it
associated with prominent people such as sovereigns, politicians,
writers or artists?
- Is it an early or particularly outstanding
example of a particular style of designed landscape?
- Is it one
of the few surviving examples of its type or age?
- Does it have
other important qualities such as rich biodiversity interest?
- How is it used and valued by local communities and others?
a conservation management plan were to be produced for the hospital
site containing the 17th century avenue, its historical, ecological,
visual and therapeutic value would be measured and balanced in
the context of the whole site. The input of all the people with
a stake in the future of the site (including owners, the local planning
authority, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw or the DoE
Northern Ireland, the Garden History Society, the relevant county
gardens trust, and not forgetting residents, visitors, workers,
neighbours and others involved with the site on a day to day basis)
would be sought and a coherent, long term plan made for the future
of the landscape and for the avenue within it.
This would lead
to specific projects (such as replanting the avenue) to put into
action the policies and, crucially, the production and implementation
of a 'landscape management/maintenance plan', which sets out
in detail the maintenance tasks needed to achieve the long term
vision for the landscape.
Although all historic parks and gardens
would benefit from conservation management plans, many do not
have such a formal plan in place. The owners and managers are
often aware of the site's importance and qualities, and might
be conserving a site effectively, however a conservation management
plan is a formalisation of this process and will be of benefit
not only in day to day management but also more especially in
the planning system and in obtaining grants.
As an initial stage
it is often worthwhile to produce a 'conservation statement',
a short simple version of a conservation management plan based
on existing knowledge of the site. This is very useful in determining
the fundamental issues about a landscape and gives direction to
further investigations. It also assists greatly in discussions
with local planning authorities, for instance in the early stages
of getting planning permission for new development.
of plan which relate to conservation management plans in their
structure, content and purpose are 'heritage management plans'
(touched on below), 'conservation plans' and 'restoration management
|| Treatment of water bodies in historic landscapes needs to respect
their historic character while ensuring the safety of users.
has recently undertaken a review of heritage protection legislation
and the decisions arising from this are outlined in the Review
of Heritage Protection: The Way Forward (DCMS 2004). A key change
is the opportunity for statutory management agreements to be employed
as an alternative consent regime for some sites (replacing for
instance the requirement for listed building and scheduled monument
consent). These agreements would be in partnership with the local
authority and, where appropriate, English Heritage and other interested
The agreements would be of particular benefit for complex
sites like registered parks and gardens which often contain a
variety of historic and archaeological elements and so are affected
by a number of different designations. The use of agreements should
encourage coherent management of a site as a whole rather than
as a number of separate components.
Trial agreements are being
tested at a number of sites and feedback from this experience
will assist in developing the proposals for change in heritage
protection over three years (2004-7). In the meantime, the current
system and level of protection are being maintained.
major change is the reform in the Common Agricultural Policy which
has seen the replacement of production subsidies for keeping particular
livestock or growing crops with a 'decoupled' Single Payment Scheme.
To qualify for this scheme, farmers and other land managers need
not keep stock or grow crops but must abide by basic standards
of good agricultural and environmental management (known as 'cross
compliance'). This change is likely to affect the management of
historic designed landscapes that are wholly or partially in
pastoral or arable cultivation. However, the long term effects
of the reforms are far from clear as yet.
OF FUNDING AND SUPPORT
is a range of sources of funding and financial support for historic
designed landscapes which are described briefly below.
Stewardship Scheme (ES), which has now replaced the Countryside
Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas Schemes, has two
The Entry Level of ES is available to all farmers
who agree to abide by simple measures that address issues such
as pollution, farmland habitats, landscape character, and the
protection of the historic environment. The scheme requires the
preparation of a simple 'Farm Environment Record'. Land managers
and farmers receive a flat annual payment of £30/ha (except in
areas of unenclosed upland). Agreements last five years.
Level of ES, which has similar objectives to the previous agri-environment
schemes, requires more ambitious environmental management. It
is competitively funded and targeted to the conservation and enhancement
of particular landscapes and habitats, according to separate targeting
statements in each 'Joint Character Area'. The scheme requires
the preparation of a detailed 'Farm Environment Plan'. A range
of annual payments and capital grants are available. Agreements
last ten years.
Tax relief: land owners can qualify for up to
100 per cent relief from inheritance tax under agricultural property
relief or, in some circumstances, business property relief. In
addition relief from both inheritance tax and capital gains tax
is available to owners of heritage property providing that claimants
and successive owners take certain steps. One such step is to
prepare a Heritage Management Plan which requires the retention
of the property, and the management of it, to be conducted in
accordance with a set of agreed objectives. Guidance on preparing
Heritage Management Plans is available from the Countryside Agency
(see Recommended Reading below).
The Heritage Lottery Fund is
a valuable source of funding for historic designed landscapes.
The main relevant grant programme is the Public Parks Initiative
(grants over £50,000) and this has already transformed many historic
parks. Another programme, Heritage Grants, through which grants over £50,000
are available for projects to conserve and enhance heritage and
increase access to and enjoyment of it, offers funding particularly
to not-for-profits organisations.
||Walled gardens have the potential to be popular visitor attractions as at Heligan Gardens, Cornwall.
A further relevant grant scheme
is for Landscape Partnerships. This is available to partnerships
of heritage and community interests and aimed at enhancing landscapes
of distinctive character valued by local communities and visitors. These applications usually encompass a portfolio of projects where
elements of the landscape are likely to be in different ownerships.
Between £250,000 and £2 million is available for partnership projects.
Finally the Local Heritage Initiative (£3,000 to £25,000) is aimed
at community groups developing heritage projects and has potential
to fund research and access projects for historic parks and gardens.
European Funding is funding available under the Interreg IIIB
programme of the European Union for projects based on links between
nations that enhance cultural heritage. A project based on a
network of historic designed landscapes across various countries
would have the potential to secure this type of grant.
This is a positive
time for the management of historic parks and gardens. There is
increasing public interest and support for historic landscapes.
We have an established and effective methodology to form a base
for future management, maintenance and repair at these sites.
The innovations in the consent regime, in agri-environment schemes,
and the continued support of the Heritage Lottery Fund offer benefits
for historic designed landscapes and their owners and managers.
These sites cannot stay the same forever, they need to adapt to
the needs of the age but we can ensure, through our thoughtful
care, that any changes celebrate and conserve this unique heritage
of historic parks and gardens.
- K Clark,
Conservation Plans in Action, English Heritage, London, 1998
- The Countryside
Agency, Conditional Exemption and Heritage Management Plans: an
introduction for owners and their advisors, 2004
- The Countryside
Agency, Preparing a Heritage Management Plan, 2005
- Defra, Environmental
Stewardship: an introduction note for staff and stakeholders,
- The Heritage
Lottery Fund, Conservation Management Plans: helping your application, 2004
- The Heritage
Lottery Fund, Conservation Management Plans: model brief and checklists, 2004
- JS Kerr,
The Conservation Plan, 5th edition, The National Trust of Australia, Sydney, Australia, 2000
(1) Planning Policy Guidance notes (PPGs) set
out Government policy on planning and
provide guidance to local authorities and
others on the operation of the planning
system. PPG 15 refers specifically to
planning and the historic environment.
(2)The Scottish Heritage/Scottish Natural
Heritage Inventory of Gardens and
Designed Landscapes of Special Interest,
the Cadw/ICOMOS Register of Parks and
Gardens of Special Historic Interest in
article is reproduced from The Building Conservation Directory, 2005
Update, September 2012
Recently there have been several significant changes in UK government planning guidance and policy.
In England Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Conservation of the Historic Environment (PPG15, 1994) and Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Archaeology and Planning (PPG16, 1990) have been cancelled by the Government. Initially replaced by Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS5) in March 2010, current policy guidance for England is now given in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) issued in March 2012. Further guidance is proposed, but in the meantime the guide which originally accompanied PPS5 remains in force - see PPS5 Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide.
In Scotland the principal statutory guidance on policy is now Scottish historic environment policy (SHEP), which was published in December 2011, with subsidiary guidance given in Historic Scotland’s Managing Change leaflets. These documents together replace the Memorandum of Guidance on Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas published in 1998.
JANE WILSON is a senior landscape architect at Land
Use Consultants. She is currently working on new
guidance on golf in historic parks and landscapes
on behalf of English Heritage and has produced
conservation management plans for a number of
historic parks and gardens.
MATTHEW TICKNER is an associate landscape
planner/manager at Land Use Consultants. His work
on historic landscapes includes a Restoration Plan
for Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire and current
projects at Stoke Park in South Buckinghamshire, and
Shugborough in Staffordshire.
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