The protection of historic designed landscapes in the United Kingdom
The Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes is compiled and maintained by Historic Scotland and can be consulted on-line. It is a growing and evolving record of nationally important gardens and designed landscapes across Scotland.
It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 gardens and designed landscapes in Scotland of varying size, character, value and condition. More than 1,000 sites have been considered so far, and approximately 385 sites are currently included on the Inventory.
A few examples of the range of designed landscape types included in the Inventory are:
- Archaeological sites such as Craigmillar Castle.
- Public parks such as Pollok Park.
- Cemeteries such as Dean Cemetery.
- Golf courses such as Gleneagles Hotel.
Scotland has created a value system to enable sites to be assessed and compared. Gardens and designed landscapes are assessed on each of the following common values:
- Work of Art.
- Horticultural, arboricultural and silvicultural.
- Nature conservation.
Sites are awarded a merit category in each of the above areas: Outstanding, High, Some, Little or None. Judgements are based on the condition of the garden and designed landscape as it is seen today. The value system is a means of comparing landscapes of similar scale, age and character.
Once a garden has been assessed against each of these criteria, a decision is made on its inclusion in the Inventory. There are no hard-and-fast rules for what constitutes national significance, and each garden is considered on its own merits.
Comparatively small plantsman's gardens like Arduaine in Argyll and Bute, or Branklyn in Perth, for example, may only score very highly in the horticultural value category and represent little value in the others, but the rare plant collections in these gardens makes them nationally important and worthy of protection.
They are considered to be as significant as much larger and grander designed landscapes like Cawdor Castle in the Highlands or Hopetoun House in West Lothian, which both score very highly in almost every category.
Historic Scotland's Chief Inspector makes the final decision on the inclusion of a garden on the Inventory. Where the the merits of a site are not clear-cut, external experts are asked for their opinion.
Many landscapes that were once valuable have been lost - the design destroyed or degraded to such an extent that it can no longer be clearly identified. These landscapes may have a richly documented history but are not included in the Inventory because they cannot be protected in any practical way.
There are also many sites where certain features have been lost or degraded - for example, walled gardens taken out of flower, vegetable and fruit production, or follies that have fallen down and their remains removed. However, the overall design of some of these sites may still be intact and easily recognisable, making them highly valuable and worthy of inclusion.
The dynamic nature of gardens and designed landscapes can make evaluation challenging. Especially when trying to determine which aspects of a garden's design or historical periods to highlight for the Inventory. One example is Crarae, recently taken over by The National Trust for Scotland.
The long-term structure of a designed landscape consists of the built structures, landform and trees with a lifespan of 100 years or more. The medium-term structure consists of shorter-lived trees (20-100 years) and shrubs. The short-term structure is made up of the herbaceous plants and bulbs with a lifespan of between one and 20 years.
Although a garden or landscape may be most widely known for its colourful borders or plant collections, these are actually the most short-lived part of the landscape and it is the lasting structures of a garden which must be considered.
Although not a statutory designation, and therefore very different from either scheduling or listing, Inventory status is a material consideration in the Scottish planning system.
The Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) (Scotland) Order 1992, amended 2007, requires planning authorities to consult Scottish Ministers, through Historic Scotland, on development proposals affecting Inventory sites.
However, planning authorities may choose to grant consent despite objection from Historic Scotland, or refuse consent despite no objection. In cases where a planning authority is disposed to grant consent in the face of objection, Scottish Ministers cannot call in the case for their own determination unless the setting of a Scheduled Monument or a Category A-listed building is also an issue.