The protection of historic designed landscapes in the United Kingdom
English Heritage compiles the Register of Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England. It currently includes some 1,600 designed landscapes of many different types.
In the same way as historic buildings are categorised, parks and gardens are graded I, II* and II. Grade I is the highest grade, and a relatively exclusive one. Prior Park is an example of a Grade I-listed site. London Road Cemetery in Coventry is listed Grade II* and Victoria Park, Tunstall is Grade II.
The Register forms part of the National Heritage List for England, available online at http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/protection/process/national-heritage-list-for-england/.
Of the many parks and gardens throughout England which are of historic value, a relatively small number are considered to be sufficiently important to be included on the national Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England.
The decision to register a park or garden is based on an assessment by English Heritage as to whether it can be said to be of ‘special historic interest'. The criteria are set out in four English Heritage Selection Guides covering Rural, Urban, Institutional and Remembrance landscapes.
The majority of sites registered are, or started life as, the grounds of private houses, but public parks and cemeteries form important categories too. Even two pumping stations and hospital landscapes are included, because they have skilfully planned surroundings that reflect the landscaping fashions of their day.
As well as being of particular historic interest, registered sites might also be of note for other reasons such as their amenity value, or for nature conservation. Although these factors are not relevant when assessing the site for the Register, they need to be given consideration to ensure the sensitive management of the site in the future.
The specific assessment criteria are based on the assumption that the older the surviving features of a site are, the more rare that type of site is likely to be, although other factors are considered.
The kinds of sites that are likely to be of sufficient historic interest for inclusion on the Register are:
- Those with a main phase of development before 1750, such as Lyveden New Bield, where at least a proportion of the layout is still evident, even perhaps only as an earthwork.
- Sites laid out mainly between 1750 and 1820, such as Berrington Hall, where enough of the landscaping survives to reflect the original design.
- Places like Kenwood, with a main phase of development between 1820 and 1880 which is of importance and survives intact or relatively intact.
- Those such as Munstead Wood, with a main phase of development between 1880 and 1939 where this is of high importance and survives intact.
- Sites such as Civic Square, Plymouth, which were laid out after the Second World War, but more than 30 years ago, where the work is of exceptional importance.
- Places such as Sissinghurst Castle, which were influential in the development of taste, whether through reputation or references in literature.
- Sites such as Hestercombe, which are early or representative examples of a particular style of layout, or a type of site, or the work of a designer (amateur or professional) of national importance in this case Gertrude Jekyll.
- Sites such as Sulgrave Manor, that are associated with significant persons or historical events.
- Sites such as Lichfield, where a group of sites has a strong value when taken together.
These criteria are not mutually exclusive categories and more than one of them may be relevant in the assessment of any particular site.
Although being included on the Register does not in itself bring additional statutory controls over a park or garden, local authorities are required by central government to provide for the protection of the historic environment in their policies and their allocation of resources.
Under the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework, one of the twelve core principles is that plan-making and decision-taking should conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations.
The compilation of 'local lists' is encouraged. Local planning authorities must consult English Heritage where an application affects a Grade I or II* registered site. The Garden History Society is consulted on all applications affecting registered sites, regardless of the grade of the site. Most Local Plans contain policies to help safeguard the historic parks and gardens which lie within the area covered. These usually stress in particular those sites included in the national Register, while the best plans also cover parks and gardens of more local interest.