New heritage system to include landscapes

White Paper proposes unified classification

By Mark Hotton Some of Britain’s historic landscapes and gardens could soon have the same preservation classification as Westminster Abbey or Canterbury Cathedral. Culture secretary Tessa Jowell last week released a government White Paper that is designed to create a simpler unified heritage protection system and strip out the bureaucracy in the existing process. Heritage Protection for the 21st Century will create a national register to protect historic sites in Wales and England, including gardens. English Heritage will take over responsibility for the listings from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport. It is planned to put the “historic environment at the heart of the planning system” and give the public greater opportunity for involvement through better consultation and scrutiny. A department representative told HW that while historic landscapes and parks currently had a separate designation system from monuments and buildings, the intention was to create a single form of designation for “historic assets”. He added: “Once the legislation is introduced, the existing regime for protecting them and marking their importance will disappear and they will become part of bigger, stronger and better-understood system.” The new system could see parks, gardens and landscapes protected on the same scale as significant buildings, monuments and World Heritage Sites, such as the Tower of London. The representative said although the details were still being developed, parks and gardens should get the same level of protection they currently have, but would be graded on the same scale as buildings. He added: “It should be the same protection — it certainly shouldn’t be any weaker. And it may be that during the reclassification system some may come out in a stronger position. “In the very best cases, some will be up there in classification with Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral where development of any sort is inconceivable but it’s a little too early to say which ones will fall into that category.”

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