Save our sites, English Heritage demands

One in 14 registered parks, gardens and landscapes is at high risk of devastation through neglect, says English Heritage.

Its latest wake-up call on the dire state of some the UK's finest landscapes, battlefields and buildings is billed as the first phase of a Domesday Book of threatened landmarks.

Almost 1,600 landscapes are on the register of historic parks and gardens of special historic interest, said English Heritage. These included gardens, parks and cemeteries of all sizes.

Last week's report, Heritage At Risk, said that the biggest risks to landscapes were splitting up properties, developments that were eye sores, cost of upkeep and underskilled councils.

Under threat is East Lodge in Great Dunmow, Essex, a weed-infested wreck of an Italianate garden with a dirty pond and crumbling balustrade, designed by Harold Peto.

Gunnersbury Park, a 75ha landscape in west London, contains 21 listed buildings but the site is falling into ruin.

"Historic parks and gardens embody one of our greatest passions," explained chief executive Simon Thurley, quoting Churchill on the theme of battlefields, which he saw as "the punctuation marks of history".

Landscapes such as the battlefield of Newbury were arguably more important than ever before in today's fast-changing society, Thurley said.

"England will become the first country in the world to have a comprehensive picture of every bit of its protected heritage at risk and the analysis to save it."

Threats to national sites
- Splitting up of properties
- Insensitive developments
- Cost of upkeep
- Lack of council expertise
- Liability of garden buildings
- Agriculture wage downturn forcing changed use of sites

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