Important update on GHS conservation work

Posted on November 30th, 2011 by Charles Boot

We wanted to keep Members informed of important developments following our AGM in July at Keele, and that of the Association of Gardens Trusts at Oxford in September.

Working Together

The Working Together Feasibility Study Group, comprising GHS, AGT, the Garden Museum and the Parks & Gardens database (P&GUK), continues to discuss a possible way forward towards closer co-operation between its members.

A prime motive for undertaking this study, which has strong support from English Heritage, is the prospect of reduced Government funding for historic parks and gardens, and particularly the likelihood of a reduction in financial support from English Heritage for our work in 2012–13.

Facing the prospect of reduced public funding as well as potentially harmful changes in national planning policy, we know that our current individual resources will not be sufficient to address threats to the parks and gardens about which we all care.

As part of the Study, each organisation has also undertaken a thorough review of its activities and the way in which each organisation operates. This has included a critical analysis of each others’ operations. The conversation has been wide-ranging and occasionally challenging, but also stimulating.

It is already impossible for the GHS alone to respond to all planning threats to our parks and gardens. Collectively, and by building on our respective strengths and expertise, we stand a much better chance of making our views known to, and understood by, national and local government.

The Study Group has concluded that uniting our skills and resources will give us a more effective voice and avoid confusion as to which body is giving what advice. Giving County Gardens Trusts’ membership more ability to get involved with direct conservation action underpins this thinking. These conclusions have been welcomed by English Heritage.

Future GHS Conservation Activity

During October, following recommendations from the Conservation Committee, GHS Council decided to implement a reorganisation of conservation practice within the GHS.

Jonathan Lovie will remain as Principal Conservation Officer and Policy Adviser in England; Linden Grove’s role as Casework Manager (England), and the Casework Log are unaffected by this reorganisation. In Scotland, Alison Allighan remains as Conservation Officer; and a Casework Log, similar to that operating in England, will also now be created and maintained. As part of this process, three of our existing Conservation Officers in England will be redundant from 4 April 2012.

The way forward

Under the Principal Conservation Officer, a new post of Deputy Conservation Officer (England) has been created; you can see an advertisement for this post elsewhere in this section, and an invitation for expressions of interest from individuals wishing to be Conservation Consultants in England. The freelance Consultants will be commissioned to deal with specific conservation cases, complementing the work of the Principal and Deputy Conservation Officers in England. Our current Conservation Officers may, of course, apply for both the advertised roles.

Planned changes to the Society’s conservation operation include:

• Moving away from a geographical structure for responding to consultations.

• Reinvigorating the Society’s role as a campaigner for Parks and Gardens.

• Providing support and training for county gardens trusts and others to engage in more conservation work, especially where this affects sites on which they are the undoubted experts.

• Ensuring, with the help of the Society’s colleagues in the CGTs, that local government recognises the importance of Parks and Gardens when drafting local plan policies.

The Society also intends to concentrate resources on responding to changes in Government policy affecting Parks and Gardens; and responding to the major cases and generic threats which face Parks and Gardens.

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