When the Gardens Trust was formed in July 2015 following a merger of the Garden History Society and the Association of Gardens Trusts (representing the County Gardens Trusts of England and Wales), it was confirmed by Government to be the new ‘statutory consultee’ in relation to planning applications which affect the designed historic landscape, a role which, since 1995, had been performed by the Garden History Society.
In its capacity as statutory consultee, the Gardens Trust (GT) plays a key conservation role and supports the County Gardens Trusts (CGTs) in the protection and conservation of designed landscapes. Local planning authorities must consult the GT in relation to all planning applications that may affect historic designed landscapes in England and Wales that are on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest, held by Historic England. These consultations are dealt with by the GT’s conservation team, working closely with volunteers in the CGTs.
The Gardens Trust sends the CGTs a weekly list of all the conservation consultations logged by the GT consisting mainly of planning applications. Bucks GT works with the GT, Historic England, other amenity bodies, the local planning authority, owners and managers of sites and the public.
The consultation requirement is triggered by any development proposal which affects the registered site: this may be at some distance, and have no physical connection with the registered site. Making appropriate consultations not only fulfils the statutory requirements but allows the application to be considered by experts in the field. Bucks GT has three Conservation and Planning Officers who respond to these consultations but we are always looking for more to ensure coverage of the county. Training is available.
The Trust is available to help developers, owners and planners with advice, based on the detailed knowledge of the historic designed landscapes of Buckinghamshire built up over many years. Where possible we encourage the development of Conservation Management Plans for each site to ensure continuity of informed practice.
Historic parks and gardens are ‘heritage assets’ for planning purposes. The GT is determined to raise awareness of historic designed landscapes and to ensure that the protection afforded to them by the National Planning Policy Framework as heritage assets is implemented and is effective and sustainable. The role of local planning authorities and the CGTs is central to this process.