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Beauty, function and sustainability in an age of austerity

How can we create beautiful, sustainable landscapes in an age of austerity?


The Landscape Institute’s 2016 Annual Conference and CPD event will address the highly topical question of how landscape architects can continue to create beautiful, sustainable landscapes at a time when budget constraints, particularly in the public sector, could lead to a reductive focus on function.

The event will be held on Thursday 3 and Friday 4 March hosted in Sheffield in partnership with the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape. This two-day CPD event will include thought-provoking talks from a distinguished roster of speakers (see below for details) and a selection of breakout CPD sessions on specific and practical topics to hone your skills and knowledge. Site visits on Friday will enable you to see some of the most interesting recent landscape projects in and around Sheffield, while the dinner and drinks reception will give you ample opportunity to network and socialise.


Book now to take advantage of a special early-bird rate of £295


Thursday 3 March



Noel Farrer (LI) and Professor James Hitchmough (University of Sheffield)


Where do our concepts of beauty in the landscape come from?

Professor Brian Evans (Glasgow School of Art) will talk about how the sublime and the picturesque contribute to beauty, and Clare Rishbeth (University of Sheffield) will focus on what constitutes beauty in a super-diverse society.

The pursuit of beauty: incidental or integral to landscape architecture?

Professor Nigel Dunnett (University of Sheffield) will challenge us about the possible dangers for the profession of pursuing beauty as a sole objective, Anna Jorgensen (University of Sheffield) will highlight the potential impacts of forgetting about beauty in landscape architecture, and Alan Carter (The Land Trust) will examine the value of beauty to their work. Merrick Denton Thompson FLI will then chair an audience Q & A session.

Does a focus on function lead us to neglect beauty?

Andrew Grant (Grant Associates) provides insights from his work in the UK and abroad persuading clients and landscape architects of the value of function, beauty and the bottom line. He will also showcase the work that his practice is undertaking on the Sheffield University master plan.

Do communities have a right to beauty in an age of austerity?

Caroline Julian (ResPublica) draws on the ResPublica report ‘A Community Right to Beauty: Giving communities the power to shape, enhance and create beautiful places, buildings and spaces’ to outline why ResPublica want to restore beauty to the heart of public policy and local planning. Their aim is not simply to introduce new legislation but to foster a long-term cultural shift.

What is the role of beauty in planning and reviewing landscape?

Clare Devine (Design Council CABE) will outline how Design Council CABE deals with beauty in Design Review, Chris Bolton (Natural England) and Jenifer White (Historic England) will discuss what significance and consideration is given to ‘beauty’ in their work, and Ian Houlston (LDA Design) will discuss conceptions of beauty in relation to the Green Belt.


The day will finish with a three-course dinner in Cutlers Hall.


Friday 4 March

The second day will start with a choice of site visits including guided tours of the Gold Route, Sheffield City Council's 'Grey to Green' project and Kiveton Community Woodland.

CPD sessions in the afternoon will include:

Soil specification and testing, Tim O’Hare

Tim will look at various aspects of soil specification and testing to assist landscape architects in selecting, assessing or approving soils. Advice will be given on the key elements of soil specification for different end-uses, including wildflower grassland, sports pitches and podium landscapes.

The sublime and the picturesque in the contemporary context, Professor Brian Evans

Using green walls in the urban environment to deliver ecosystem services, Professor John Dover

John will introduce the general categories of green wall (Natural Colonisation, Green Facades, Green Screens, and Living Walls) and will examine some of the different products currently available and how they can be used in the urban environment to deliver a range of ecosystem services ranging from screening ugly structures through to pollution reduction.

Building Green Bridges: creating a connected landscape, Kate Ahern, LUC and Clare Warburton, Natural England

Kate and Clare will host a session that will outline the potential contributions of a range of design solutions can have to integrate road or rail infrastructure and mitigate their residual impacts. 


Inclusive Public Realm – an update on the dos, don’ts and legislation, Helen Allen, hada

Helen will update landscape and urban designers on the legislative and design requirements for creating inclusive environments.  This will cover the Equality Act, relevant Building Regulations, best practice guidance and case studies.


The benefits that trees can bring to Urban Futures, Alan Simson

Alan will confirm the importance of trees to urban areas, and will consider the provable benefits that they can bring to the city. The prime focus of the session however will be on how trees can assist in ameliorating air-borne pollution in the city, currently one of the major dis-benefits of urban living in terms of human health and longevity.

Closing the gap: how to select trees, Keith Sacre

Keith will look at the key elements involved in the selection of high quality young trees from the nursery. What are the key characteristics of the tree which should be evaluated both above and below ground? How important is the nursery production method and what best practice factors should be evaluated? Physiological health test and biosecurity will also be discussed during the session.

Understanding the pathways to health and wellbeing in natural environments and exploring the implications for landscape planning and design, Anna Jorgensen

Anna will outline the three main pathways or linkages between engagement with the natural environment and health and wellbeing: physical exercise, restoration from stress and social activity. She’ll explore different aspects of these pathways and their relevance to a typology of different green spaces and to landscape planning and design.


Attracting attention: beautiful yet functional pollinator-friendly plantings in a changing world, Helen Bostock and Stephanie Bird, RHS

Helen and Stephanie will cover the three core areas around the purpose and appeal of pollinator plantings in a horticultural context. The first offers a background to the origin of plant lists, the appetite for them and the challenges posed by the sheer number of plants in cultivation. The second focuses on ways to enhance and qualify plant recommendations for pollinating insects. The final area will look at the importance of pollinator plantings in a changing world; questioning how plant choice can help increase resilience of gardens and planted areas in the face of unseasonal weather patterns and climate change threats to certain pollinator groups.

Fractured landscapes: hydraulic fracturing in the LVIA. Olaf Schroth

Olaf will present followed by a Q&A and an interactive session. This session is to agree on the main challenges to the LVIA process through fracking. At the end of the hour the intention is to have an agreed set of issues for further consideration or research. 

Design for Play: how to create playful landscapes, Adam White and Andrée Davies

Adam and Andrée will share their experience of designing risky nature play spaces including the recently opened Commonwealth Games Legacy Park and explain how innovative community enabling has helped foster local ownership and bust the myths around risk in play.

Drawing for Landscape Architecture: from sketch to screen to site, Edward Hutchison

Edward will demonstrate that the ability to draw by hand is now more relevant than ever, in the best contemporary practice. He will show that the time and dedication spent improving drawing skills pays off handsomely. Examples from his own work show that this skill it is cost effective, both in developing concepts rapidly (thereby using fees sparingly), and selling ideas swiftly to a client body through the magic of charming drawings.

Developing and asset management based approach to existing parks and greenspace systems, Colin Stuart, Dewar Stuart Associates

Colin will discuss the use of asset and facility based management systems and principles and how they may be applied to parks and greenspaces within a local authority situation. There will also be discussion whether current management perspectives and traditional incremental thinking is an adequate approach when faced with ‘austerity’ or similar externally imposed challenges.

Controversial benches: the delicate art of sitting outside, Clare Rishbeth

Clare will draw on her work as principal Investigator for The Bench Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of their Connected Communities programme, which is researching the locations where people often 'hang out'.

The conference will close with a drinks reception.

Book now to take advantage of the special early-bird rate of £295




Kate Ahern is Director of Landscape Planning at LUC. Kate is skilled in approaches to characterisation and landscape and visual impact assessment and has particular experience in the application of landscape character assessment to decision-making. 

Helen Allen is Director of Hada and has been a key contributor to the BSI publication: Inclusive Urban Design: A guide to creating accessible public spaces. She originally trained as a furniture designer/maker and then as a landscape architect to pursue her passion for design and ‘place making’ with a view to creating exciting and sustainable landscapes and public realm.


Stephanie Bird is an RHS/Roehampton PhD student.

Stephanie’s research interests include plant interactions, biodiversity and conservation and she has previously published work on the effect of light pollution on the ability of male glow worms (Lampyris noctiluca) to locate females. She joined the Royal Horticultural Society as a PhD student in 2011and in her current role, as a scientist in plant health, she has had the opportunity to continue her research and is currently assisting on a project exploring resource provision for pollinating insects in gardens.


Chris Bolton is Head of Profession, Landscape at Natural England. Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide.

Helen Bostock is Senior Horticultural Adviser, Royal Horticultural Society. As well as her role as advisor, Helen is manager of the RHS ‘Plants for Bugs’ project, a long term study into the value of native and non-native garden planting for invertebrates. The first paper focusing on pollinators was published in August 2015 in the Journal of Applied Ecology and her article outlining the results for gardeners in RHS journal The Garden, won the Garden Media Guild’s 2015 Environmental Award. Helen is also a trustee of the Wildlife Gardening Forum and works closely with The Wildlife Trust on their joint project, ‘Wild about Gardens’. She is involved in developing the RHS Perfect for Pollinator plant lists.


Alan Carter is Head of Portfolio Management at The Land Trust. Alan is responsible for the Trust's estates portfolio, ensuring that the Trust’s sites, which include Liverpool Festival Gardens and Northumberlandia, deliver measurable and sustainable impacts across all its five charitable aims. He was previously at British Waterways as a business development manager.

Andrée Davies is a Director of Davies White Ltd. Andrée is a RHS Gold Medal award winning Landscape Architect and studied at Leeds Metropolitan University between 1986 and 1992. Andrée is a graduate of the English Gardening School at the Chelsea Physic Garden and has been guest lecturer at the Royal College of Art.


Clare Devine is Director of the Design Council Cabe with  over 25 years’ experience in architecture. She has been a director of three practices working in housing, regeneration, education, public, civic and cultural buildings.


Professor John Dover is an ecologist with over 30 years’ experience and is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Insect Conservation, and author of Green Infrastructure: Incorporating Plants and Enhancing Biodiversity in Buildings and Urban Environments.

Professor Nigel Dunnett is Professor of Planting Design and Vegetation Technology at the University of Sheffield, and Director of The Green Roof Centre. His areas of research include green roofs, rain gardens, pictorial meadows, and naturalistic planting design.


Professor Brian Evans is Professor of Urbanism and Landscape at The Glasgow School of Art, and founder member of Glasgow Urban Lab. He was also a partner at Gillespies for over 25 years.

Noel Farrer is President of the Landscape Institute and director of Farrer Huxley Landscape Architects.

Mary Fisher of LDA Design has specialist expertise in onshore wind and Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) and also acts as an expert witness at planning inquiries. She leads the LDA Design Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and LVIA services.


Andrew Grant of Grant Associates is currently developing the Sheffield masterplan. He is known for a creative approach to ecological/sustainable landscape design and he led the design team on the £500 million Gardens by the Bay project at Bay South in Singapore. The 54-hectare park explores the technical boundaries of landscape and horticulture in an Asian city and won the Building Project of the Year Award at the 2012 World Architecture Festival.


Professor James Hitchmough is Head of the Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield. He designed the naturalistic planting in the Southern Hemisphere Garden at the iconic London Olympic Park.


Ian Houlston is an Associate at LDA Design and is a multi-award winning landscape architect and archaeologist with specialist expertise in the contextual design of large and complex development projects in sensitive locations.

Edward Hutchison has over 40 years’ experience in landscape architecture and has exhibited drawings and work at the Garden Museum. His 2011 fully illustrated reference book based on the importance of hand drawings in design process, ‘‘Drawing for Landscape Architecture’, has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese and was voted by an American Architectural website as one of the top 10 inspiration design books of the year.


Anna Jorgensen is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield with research interests on the ways in which different people experience, interact with, understand and represent landscape, especially wild or natural-looking vegetation.


Caroline Julian is Deputy Director, Head of Policy and Strategy at ResPublica, which produced the report ‘A Community Right to Beauty: Giving communities the power to shape, enhance and create beautiful places, buildings and spaces’.

Tim O’Hare has been a professional soil scientist for eighteen years and is also a council member of the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists and sits on the British Standards Institute’s working group Topsoil and other Growing Media.


Clare Rishbeth is a Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield with a research focus on cultural diversity in landscape experience and design, in regard to the urban environment.


Keith Sacre is Sales Director of Barcham Trees and Vice Chair of the Arboricultural Association and member of the Trees and Design Action Group. Keith is a Chartered Arboriculturist and holds an MSc in Arboriculture and Urban Forestry. Keith led the development of the new British Standard BS 8545:2014 Trees: from nursery to independence in the landscape. In 2014 he received the Arboricultural Association Award for his continuing services to arboriculture.

Olaf Schroth is a Lecturer at the University of Sheffield in landscape planning, specialising in developing and testing technologies for environmental modelling and landscape visualisation. His work covers landscape and visual impact assessment, GIS, landscape visualisation and the impact of climate change adaptation.


Suzanne Simmons is a CIRIA Project Manager.  CIRIA is the construction industry research and information association. It is an a neutral, independent not-for-profit body, linking organisations with common interests to facilitate collaborative activities to help improve the industry.

Alan Simson is a chartered landscape architect and urban forester with extensive professional experience in the UK. He is currently Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Forestry at Leeds Beckett University and has led several European urban forestry research projects on behalf of the UK.

Colin Stuart of Dewar Stuart Associates Ltd. Colin’s career in local authorities has included Head of Service positions encompassing parks and green spaces, countryside and coastal management, landscape and environmental services and associated services and facilities. Since 2011 he has been running his own interim management and consultancy company delivering a range of services to local authority, charitable and private sector organisations. He was a trustee of Urban Parks Forum, then Greenspace from 1999 to 2012.

Clare Warburton is Senior Transport Specialist at Natural England. Clare is an expert on the interrelationships between transport and the natural environment, particularly with regard to transport policy and planning; environmental opportunities/impacts arising from transport development; and managing transport’s green infrastructure.  She manages Natural England’s transport evidence programme.

Adam White is a Director of Davies White Ltd and a Fellow of the Landscape Institute. He is also a RHS Gold Medal and BBC People’s Choice Award winning landscape architect. He studied at Manchester Met University and in 2012 he became the youngest ever Fellow of the Landscape Institute and is author of the publication ‘Nature Play: the designers guide’. Since 2008 he has been Director at Davies White Ltd, an award winning practice that specialise in the creation of bespoke nature play spaces.


Jenifer White is a national landscape adviser at Historic England. Historic England is the public body that looks after England's historic environment. They champion historic places, helping people understand, value and care for them. 





Book now




Book now

Early bird prices to 19 February

Member early bird: £295

Pathway early bird: £250

Student early bird: £25

If you have a volunteer voucher this can be used with the early bird offer.

Full prices

Member: £450

Non-member: 450

Pathway students: £300

Member concession: £100

Student: £50

Day 1 only: £195

Day 2 only: £195

Full conference ticket prices include conference day, CPD day, evening meal at Cutlers Hall and drinks reception on Friday evening at the Department of Landscape Architecture.

Day 1 only tickets include dinner.

Day 2 only tickets include the drinks reception.

All prices include VAT

Book now


CPD sessions include:

> fracturing landscapes - hydraulic fracturing and other new energy technologies with Olaf Schroth of the University of Sheffield

> natural play with Adam White of Davies White Associates

> the sublime and the picturesque in the contemporary context with Professor Brian Evans of The Glasgow School of Art

> drawing for landscape architecture from sketch to screen to site with Edward Hutchison

> soil specification and testing with Institute of Professional Soil Scientists’ council member, Tim O’Hare of Tim O’Hare Associates

> using green walls in the urban environment to deliver ecosystem services with Professor John Dover of Staffordshire University

> benefits that trees can bring to Urban Futures with Professor Alan Simson of Leeds Beckett University

> building green bridges with Kate Ahern of LUC and Clare Warburton of Natural England

> inclusive design with Helen Allen from hada/David Bonnett Associates

> closing the gap - how to select trees with Keith Sacre of Barcham trees

> CIRIA’s SuDS guidance with Suzanne Simmons of CIRIA

> proportionality guidance with Mary Fisher of LDA Design

> writing for Landscape with the editor Ruth Slavid

> economic benefits of investing in the environment with Thomas Harle and Tim Sutherland of Natural England 



Accommodation is not included, but here is a list of suggested hotels near the venue:

Leopold Hotel – 4 star

Copthorne Hotel – 4 star

Hilton Hotel – 4 star

Holiday Inn Royal Victoria– 4 star

Novotel – 4 star

Rutland Hotel – 4 star

Best Western Cutlers Hotel – 3 star

Jury’s Inn – 3 star

Sheffield Metropolitan Hotel – 3 star

Holiday Inn Express budget

Ibis Sheffield budget





















































© Landscape Institute 2016
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