Registered Parks and Gardens at Risk

More than 1,600 parks and gardens in England are designated as being of national importance. These are included in the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England.

These designed landscapes cover many types and are the result of centuries of work by both private individuals and public bodies. They make a special contribution to the historic landscape of our countryside and towns.

Without proper care and investment these fragile landscapes can easily be damaged beyond repair or lost forever. We want to help their owners to find practical and affordable ways of safeguarding their future.

There are many issues and challenges facing historic parks and gardens. One of the greatest threats to these historic landscapes are proposals for development. These sites do not have any additional statutory controls to protect them. However, currently, under the National Planning Policy Framework their historic and architectural significance is taken into consideration as part of the planning process and these designations carry the same weight as listed buildings. This means that substantial harm or loss can only be justified in exceptional cases. The policy emphasises sustaining and enhancing the significance of all heritage assets and finding viable uses consistent with their conservation.

A range of works or operations can be harmful to the historic character or fabric of historic parks or gardens such as:

  • Construction of buildings or structures, including highways, wind turbines and renewables, car parking, drives and visitor developments
  • Alterations or extensions to buildings, structures and earthworks
  • Changes in farming
  • Felling or wilful damage to trees and hedges, clearance of undergrowth, and forestry planting
  • Quarrying and mineral workings
  • Works affecting the hydrological regime
  • Changes to boundaries and ditches, and minor changes normally permitted under the planning system
  • Events and temporary structures
  • Lighting, intrusive noises and smells

Neglect or abandonment is another issue impacting registered parks and gardens on the Heritage at Risk Register. However, encouragingly, it can be possible to restore historic parks and gardens. 

View of the built remains within Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, Birkenhead.
Flaybrick Memorial Gardens is one of England’s most important cemeteries. It was opened in 1844 and burials continued until the 1970s. Originally there were three chapels. One chapel was demolished in 1971 and by the 1980s, the other pair of chapels had fallen into disrepair and their roofs and spires had to be removed for safety reasons. Supporting the efforts of passionate volunteers, we have paid for a condition survey of the chapels, and partly funded urgent repairs which were completed in 2017. We are continuing to work with the local authority and the Friends on restoring the Grade II* designed landscape. © Historic England

The current situation

There are 96 registered parks and gardens on the Heritage at Risk Register, representing 5.8% of the total number of registered parks and gardens in England. The Heritage at Risk Register includes all grades (Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II) of registered historic parks and gardens.

There are also individual park and garden features on the Heritage at Risk Register. These include listed buildings, such as garden walls, lodges, follies and temples.

The challenge ahead

We recognise that registered parks and gardens are complex sites, often presenting unique challenges.

They can occupy large areas, they are frequently associated with other heritage assets at risk, and they may be in multiple ownership. This can make a holistic approach to their conservation difficult to take forward.

To tackle this, Historic England's landscape architects promote initiatives that will help to remove parks and gardens from the Heritage at Risk Register.

These complex landscapes often require significant monetary investment. They also need commitment from their owners to achieve the positive management necessary, so that they can be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

Our own grant funding, as well as that from other funding bodies, particularly Natural England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, is invaluable in rescuing landscapes at risk.

We work closely with Natural England, through the Countryside Stewardship scheme, to deliver repair solutions for designed landscapes.

Pressure on public finances presents a challenge for many of our most celebrated public parks and cemeteries.

Demand for land for development also calls for creative design solutions that do not damage the significance of historic parks and gardens. It is only by thoroughly understanding the challenges facing individual parks and gardens that we can work out effective conservation solutions. We then play a key role in bringing about close and effective co-operation between owners, land managers and funding partners to make a real difference to landscapes at risk:

  • Analysing the problems facing a landscape
  • Helping to identify the opportunities
  • Advising on conservation management planning
  • Helping to work out where alterations can be made
  • Investigating the feasibility of options for future use
  • Helping to broker solutions
  • Providing information on funding such as Heritage Lottery Fund and Environmental Stewardship

Our pages on Looking after Parks, Gardens and Landscapes offer technical guidance for people caring for and managing these sites.

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