CONSERVATION THROUGH THE PLANNING SYSTEM
We Can Make a Difference
The Berkshire Gardens Trust (BGT) aims to promote the conservation of the county’s parks, gardens and other designed landscapes, both through the planning system and by advising owners and others involved in the management of these sites.
We monitor and respond to planning applications that are regularly made to local authorities which may either directly or indirectly impact on a historic park or garden or other designed landscape both of national and local importance.
Through this activity we aim to help local authorities and applicants to ensure that our historic parks and gardens are conserved and enhanced whilst accommodating suitable development and changes to ensure a long term sustainable future for our parks and gardens for the benefit of all.
Role of the Garden Trust
Local planning authorities must consult the Gardens Trust (GT) in relation to all planning applications that may affect historic designed landscapes in England and Wales that are on the Historic England Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest, i.e. they are Grade I, II* or II listed.
The Gardens Trust works closely with its colleagues in the county gardens trusts to ensure that together we are able to give authoritative, local and specialist advice on planning and other conservation matters.
On a weekly basis, the Gardens Trust circulates a planning application list to contacts in the county gardens. This enables GT to work closely with county volunteers who are delegated to respond to regionally important cases. The GT will also liaise directly with the relevant county gardens trust on nationally important cases.
The Role of the Berkshire Gardens Trust
There are 36 sites in the Royal County of Berkshire on Historic England’s Register of Historic Parks and Gardens and many others of local interest. An initial review of local historic parks and gardens in the county was carried out by BGT in 2015. This identified a total of around 150 sites of potential special interest, either nationally or at county level.
The Berkshire Gardens Trust will also consider applications and plans affecting parks and gardens which are not listed (though they may contain a listed building, ancient monument or feature) but are considered to be, or may be, of local interest. Some are recorded in the local authority Historic Environment Records (HER), or have been researched by our Research team but others remain unrecorded. Heritage documents within planning applications will often lead to the discovery of more information on these and other sites which have been overlooked.
What Does this Mean for Our Volunteers?
Members of the Committee monitor the weekly list distributed by the Gardens Trust and, when appropriate, are actively able to help to protect the Berkshire parks and gardens heritage by influencing local authority planning policies and contributing constructive and informative comment on planning applications. This helps to ensure that proposed developments and plans respect and enhance our parks and gardens heritage.
Some proposals may involve significant landscape changes but the majority relate to lesser matters often associated with buildings and structures within the registered parks and gardens. We will comment on both planning applications and Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans and occasionally get involved in planning appeals. An archive of a summary of our responses to proposed planning applications notified to or noted by the Trust is available on request from our Planning Co-ordinator. In Berkshire, there are 6 unitary planning authorities as shown on the map.
To enable proper consideration of the development, any application proposing changes to parks and gardens should include an historical appraisal and impact assessment. BGT supports the production of these statements. The research which we are undertaking compliments the records included in the HER and, where available, is important in the creation of these supporting documents and can play a critical role in the conservation of our landscape heritage.
How Can You Help?
If you would like to help our Team in assessing these applications and plans or have experience of the planning system or a background in planning, heritage and landscape assessment or have a keen interest in the future of our historic parks and gardens, we would love to hear from you.
Perhaps you are already a member of one or more of the following:
a Parish Council or Neighbourhood Plan Group;
an environmental group such as the BBOWT, Woodland Trust or RSPB;
a planning pressure group such as the CPRE;
a professional such as a member of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, the Landscape Institute, Royal Town Planning Institute living or working in Berkshire;
in a relevant discipline/profession within or related to the heritage sector.
Your help can range from keeping your eyes and ears open locally to proposed changes and can include exploring documents, site visits, making contacts, and helping with our responses as part of our Planning Team. Together with the GT we can provide valuable guidance and assistance.