The Building Conservation Directory 2024

105 CATHEDRAL COMMUNICATIONS THE BUILDING CONSERVATION DIRECTORY 2024 EXTERNAL WORKS 3.4 GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE and the URBAN HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT The role of parks, gardens and trees in climate adaptation JENIFER WHITE THE OLDEST municipal public parks have now served their communities for more than 150 years. As the gruesome Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 demonstrated, they are still essential and very much valued. Designed as places for health and amusement, public parks are still truly relevant in people’s lives. Trees, gardens and parks add to the attractiveness of our towns and cities. The combination of public, commercial and domestic green spaces contributes to the sense of place, its vibrancy and prosperity. However, the origins of these green spaces, their cultural significance, multiple community benefits and on-going upkeep is often overlooked. As climate changes deepen, we all need these green spaces and features to work to help temper increased temperatures and water run-off from heavy downpours, as well as places to relax and exercise. They also have a significant role in the nation’s nature recovery strategy and making space for wildlife. Recently, the wellbeing benefits of parks and green spaces have once again come to the fore in discussions of public health and climate change adaptation. THE INVENTION OF URBAN PARKS Our urban green spaces are remarkably diverse in type and size ranging from urban commons and greens to municipal public parks and gardens. This includes botanical gardens, cemeteries, recreation grounds and playing fields, sports grounds and golf courses, town squares, town walks, street trees and verges, visitor attractions, commercial premises, domestic gardens, allotments and detached town gardens, private garden squares and communal grounds. Each is central to the story of how its community developed. Public green spaces such as municipal parks, cemeteries, town walks, avenues and boulevards, and housing landscapes were often part of bigger area improvements, sanitation and education initiatives, and civic developments such as galleries, museums and libraries. The pioneers of parks worked in the context of urban expansion and recognised the need for green lungs and access to open spaces. The 1848 Public Health Act Plan of Birkenhead Park (Photo: Alexandre Gravis, CC by SA 4.0) empowered local boards of health to provide, maintain and improve land for municipal parks. The great British public park was replicated around the world, with Birkenhead Park (opened in 1847) now being put forward for world heritage site status as the inspiration for this global fashion. The new urban public parks were prestigious developments, attracting top designers. Although Parisian parks were a big influence, designs often followed the principles developed by Humphry Repton (1752–1818) and promoted by John Claudius Loudon (1783–1843) and Joseph Paxton (1803–1865), whose projects included Birkenhead Park and the Crystal Palace Park. The early roll call also includes protegees of Paxton (Edward Kemp, John Gibson, Edward Milner), as well as Joshua Major, Decimus Burton, Robert Marnock, James Pennethorne, Alexander Mackenzie, and Thomas H Mawson. Later, design competitions became important, and local authority