Memorandum submitted by the Landscape
Landscape design is a key factor in creating
successful spaces through urban regeneration, economic development
and rural management. However, the role of landscape designers
is too often confined to cosmetic adjustments in urban areas,
restoration of historical parks or protection in the countryside.
Landscape, where it touches the everyday life of people, can encompass
wide ranging forms of environment, and embraces a number of contemporary
issues including housing, transport, commerce and leisure. Landscape
design considers much more than the experience of horticulture.
The advent of National Lottery funding provides
an opportunity to focus attention on the possibilities of creating
new landscapes and examining the important role that landscape
design can play in the broader cultural life of Britain today.
Evidence would suggest though, that in the system of distributing
lottery funds there is a disproportionate slant away from a creation
of the new towards the refurbishment of the past.
Planning has the potential to promote high standards
of landscape, and landscape issues are beginning to find a new
place in planning policy and development practice in the UK. Generally
though the role of landscape design is often to ameliorate the
adverse impact of development. Landscape design can, and should,
provide the larger picture to any scale development and not be
concerned only with detail.
The arena of urban regeneration is currently
strapped by professionals keenly protecting what they perceive
as their threatened position. Each profession makes its own bold
claims. Planners claim to be in the best position to oversee the
regeneration process, architects to be the natural leaders of
a new build team, urban designers to bridge the gap between other
professions and public artists to understand the real concerns
of the public. Landscape designers seem to lie low.
Today's most impressive achievements in regeneration
are by people who have abandoned professional jealousies learning
instead to collaborate and consider the whole. The fostering of
collaboration and development of multidisciplinary practice is
the most appropriate way forward. Increasingly the importance
of landscape issues is interest, both for understanding the environment
that is hoped to be changed and as a means of changing them.
The opportunities open to landscape design through
the under-exploited lottery funds and under-achieving planning
system are enormous. It remains to be seen who will provide the
leadership to make the most of them.
1. Innovative landscape design can be the
key to successful urban regeneration, economic development and
rural management. Yet the UK is failing to take advantage of major
opportunities to create new and ambitious landscape schemes.
2. The Heritage Lottery Fund should support
the creation of new landscape design projects, not just (as at
present) the restoration of existing parks and gardens. There
needs to be a revaluation of policy regarding the meaning of "Heritage".
Heritage (particularly a heritage represented in landscape) can
be safeguarded and enhanced, not by simply preserving or restoring
a status quo, but by adding to and creating new situations which
keep the cultural value of heritage alive.
3. The Arts Council Lottery Fund should
support the creation of new landscape as an integral part of art
commissioning. It should also encourage the commissioning of new
public art to take into greater consideration the wider context
of landscape setting.
4. Government should establish a major programme
of funding for new landscape schemes as the first environmental
programme of the New Opportunities Fund.
5. Government should issue Planning Policy
Guidance to ensure that landscape considerations are integrated
into planning at every level.
6. Local planning authorities should include
policies on landscape design when they review their development
plans. They should also insist on landscape framework plans being
prepared for any development of significant size or sensitivity.
"Why is it, I wonder, that we have trouble
agreeing on the meaning of landscape? The word is simple enough,
and it refers to something which we think we understand; and yet
to each of us it seems to mean something different."
John Brinckeroff Jackson
Any definition of landscape has to be broad.
Landscape is the changing human and natural habitat; it is also
the topographical form and visual appearance of land. Landscapes
are perceived through the way these components combine in a way
that is distinctive to particular localities and the way they
are informed the cultural and historical associations of place.
Lottery funding made available for enhancing
existing "heritage" parks is very welcome and has focused
attention on the past achievements of those who created landscapes
to fit the ambitions of former times. Many of the qualities these
schemes offered at the time they were built still remain to be
experienced. However, the requirements for open and public space
today, are considerably different from one or two centuries ago
and the context of a contemporary Britain that defines these requirements
is changing ever more rapidly.
The shift towards more leisure orientated society
in a hi-tech post industrial economy is having considerable impact
upon the way space is used and perceived. Leisure is increasingly
pursued indoors, digital communications allow more activitieswork
and pleasureto be focused in the home. The environment
of shopping, or the landscape of retail, can now be found under
one roof in private malls rather than public streets. Out of doors
activities are packaged within clearly defined locations, often
away from urban centres, whether it be the theme park, the golf
course of National Trust property.
The more traditional urban landscapes of the
public realmthe piazza or squarecreated to encourage
free association, civic rituals have lost much of their original
significance and are rarely created anew. People are more likely
to frequent the shopping mall or airport. However it still remains
that it is the experience of public space which contributes to
people's understanding and identity of place.
Other factors conditioning the experience of
public space in Britain today include the increasing reluctance
or inability of local authorities to take on responsibilities
for managing public space. At the same time there is a widespread
concern that development should be sustainable: using resources
efficiently, with a concern for the legacy that will be left to
future generations. At least in this, parks and other green spaces
are valued for their role in promoting understanding of natural
Housing, transport, production and leisure;
maintenance and sustainability. These are some of the issues to
which the design of today's parks and open spaces should respond.
Doing so may lead to very different design concepts, But, it will
be only by exploring these issues will we find ways of meeting
Case example: Burgess Park
The plan for Burgess Park drawn up on behalf
of Southwark Borough Council by EDAW aimed to place the development
of the park in a broad contemporary context.
Burgess Park in Southwark, twice the size of
St James's Park, is the result of an ambitious plan (proposed
in Abercrombie and Forshaw's 1943 County of London Plan) which
was never properly executed, mainly due to lack of funds. It remains
an opportunity to create a great park in an area in desperate
need of regeneration and improvement. To the people of Southwark,
the investment involved in the original hopes for the park and
in clearing the site of more than 2,000 houses could be said to
be a significant part of their heritage. But discussions with
the HLF have indicated little likelihood of success for any application
for funding under the current Urban Parks Programme. (The plan,
having failed to attract Lottery funding, is now being implemented
The Heritage Lottery Fund is already having
a major impact on Britain's public parks through its Urban Parks
Programme. Launched in 1996 with a target budget of £50 million
the HLF has already committed more than £100 million to projects.
Many of the parks receiving Lottery money do not enjoy funding
from any of the established government quangoes such as English
Nature, nor are they necessarily a statutory obligation of local
authorities. A large number of these parks had been allowed to
fall into a state of neglect, through under-funding and poor management
contributing to their old age.
The aim of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is
to safeguard and enhance the heritage of the United Kingdom.
The HLF definition of heritage is:
"buildings, objects and the environment,
whether man-made or natural, which have been important in the
formation of the character and identity of the United Kingdom
and which will be a vital part of its future".
This definition alone can be interpreted as
limiting the programme's potential for creating anything new,
and contributing to future heritage. The question remains whether
it is possible to apply some flexibility to this definition of
If, according to the HLF's own definition, the
UK's heritage is passed down in the form of "buildings, objects
and environment", then this heritage is also established
in larger context of these objects in relation to a sense of place.
Heritage is also passed down through people's memories, through
rituals and celebrations, and through historical associations.
The principle that a civic sense of ritual and celebration is
relevant today can be evoked through the creation of new spaces.
There is a strong strand to current thinking
on planning (reflected in the Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions, Planning Policy Guidance Note 1) that
stresses the importance of enhancing the identity of a place by
designing and building with a sense of what is locally distinctive.
Development can submerge local distinctiveness beneath expressions
of the needs of volume house-builders, current trends among architects
and designers, or the marketing of corporate images. Alternatively,
development can help to reinforce a place's setting, traditions,
history and associations. In other words: its heritage.
The HLF quotes Ruskin in stating that, "The
measure of any great civilisation is in its cities, and a measure
of a city's greatness is to be found in the quality of its public
spaces, its parks and its squares."
All towns and cities are continuously changing.
Their heritage changes as well, each generation adding something
which those who come after will value. Contributing to that process
is itself a way of ensuring that the heritage of a place remains
part of its contemporary life and memory, rather than slipping
into an inaccessible past.
Safeguarding and enhancing the heritage (the
HLF mission) depends on more than just preserving buildings, objects
or environments of historical importance. Those buildings, objects
and environments must have sympathetic contexts and appropriate
uses. The most positive means of providing such contexts and uses
will often be to create new landscapes.
The HLF has a Local Heritage Initiative (a partnership
with the Countryside Commission) that goes some way to recognising
that heritage can be kept alive by people interacting with it.
With some emphasis on community-led projects the successful completion
of the initiative in its current pilot phase will be followed
by a programme with up to £40 million of HLF funding for
many small scale projects around the country.
The Local Heritage Initiative aims to:
"[help people] link the past, through the
present, to the future."
It defines its focus as:
"[the] many ordinary landscape features
[which] don't have a special `heritage' label but provide the
context for nationally recognised heritage."
The Local Heritage Initiative publicity further
"To focus exclusively on our finest national
assets risks divorcing them of meaning. . . . Lack of value is
often mirrored by lack of care, which leads to erosion and loss
of local heritage and a loss of richness to daily life. . . .
Places are cultural as well as physical entities. . . . It is
local people who are best placed to determine how people, events
and activities in the past have made their place special today
and how this distinctiveness can be retained for the future. .
. . It is small features, the traditions and customs, the distinctive
items and the special local places, which together create our
greatest national assetour living landscape."
This attitude behind an HLF initiative confirms
an important point. Heritage (particularly the heritage represented
by the landscape) can be safeguarded and enhanced, not just by
preserving or restoring things, but by doing and creating things
which keep the cultural value of heritage alive. Heritage can
be lost, even though its physical manifestations remain, if it
is no longer valued. Conversely, heritage can be developed by
celebrating features of our landscape which have been neglected.
New landscapes can safeguard and enhance heritage
Improve the setting or views of a
Contribute to the celebration of
Enhance the value (or the public's
appreciation of the value) of a feature or features whose importance
as heritage had been undervalued.
On these grounds the HLF would be justified
in furthering its existing objectives by selectively funding the
creation of new landscapes and the improvement of landscapes which
until now have not been considered a sufficiently important part
of the national heritage to receive HLF funding.
Such an emphasis on seeing heritage in terms
of how people value heritage would be a practical way of supporting
the aspiration in the Government's White Paper The People's
Lottery that "Lottery funding should become, over time,
more focused on people rather than buildings."