Academic questions park projects

Most British parks not worth restoring, claims academic.

A leading academic has called into question the popular trend of renovating Victorian parks. At a talk held by the Garden History Society, head of landscape research at Manchester Metropolitan University, Ed Bennis, claimed that most parks in the UK are not worth restoring. Bennis also told members that most parks in Britain are not of significant historic importance. He said: “Who are we restoring them for? While these restoration projects are technically very good, I’m not sure that they capture the spirit, needs or the idea of modern society.” He added: “We need to look at parks in a different way, and ask what they give to society. Rather than simply reproducing something from the past, we should use the past as a basis to move forward. Past ideas should act as a catalyst, not a solution. The cure is not to copy.” Bennis pointed to research conducted by the European Garden Heritage Network (EGHN) that found fewer than five per cent of people who visit historic gardens are interested in their history. Bennis said: “They just don’t care. They come here for other reasons, such as to relax and explore.” The EGHN — of which Bennis is a member — lobbies local government to increase the presence of gardens in people’s lives — socially, economically, environmentally and culturally. Bennis argued that Germany has already achieved this by transforming former manufacturing sites into playgrounds. “The garden is not just a place full of green fluffy stuff and flowers,” he said. Bennis added that it is not always economical to restore gardens and that in some cases they have more charm when they are left as they are.

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