The value of landscape science, management, and planning are the subject of spirited discussion on day 2 of the LI’s annual conference

    While a number of delegates at the LI’s conference journeyed to Thamesmead and Stratford for the morning site visits, many packed into a lecture theatre in Greenwich for a series of fascinating panels and presentations on landscape management, planning and science.

    Hearing the perspective of those responsible for large, long-term transformations, research and decision making was invaluable. And throughout each presentation, common themes emerged: the importance of joined-up thinking, partnership working, and community engagement.

    Partnership brokering

    Delegates heard from New Forest National Park Authority CEO Alison Barnes, who said that despite being a planning authority, NFNPA don’t have ‘many tools in [our] toolbox’. Rather, they are a ‘broker of partnerships’.

    Alison introduced the audience to the Green Halo partnership. A multilateral alliance spanning the public, private and third sectors, Green Halo works to ‘ensure that the natural environment is seen as an integral part of how we work and live’. And it serves as an excellent platform for dialogues between organisations that ordinarily do not work together, or even talk.

    By way of example, Alison referred to a local sawmill who had only to make a small tweak to their cutting specifications for a local architect to be able to make use of their materials. Were they not part of the partnership, neither party would ever have known.

    Spoilt view

    Land Trust CEO Euan Hall reminisced about his time at English Partnerships, where he directed a £385 million coalfield restoration programme.

    The take-home message: when seeking to enhance a community, it is crucial to engage the community! The removal of a spoil tip, Euan said, initially seemed like an engineering challenge. But speaking to residents revealed their appreciation of the tip’s visual amenity as a hill. The solution became a simple one – leave the tip where it is.

    Curated experience

    The sentiments echoed those expressed earlier in the morning by National Trust’s Nature and Science Director Rosemary Hails. One message suggested in her presentation was that the value of a landscape, whether as a place to live or a place to visit, is perhaps best expressed by those who use it.

    The Royal Parks attract some 77 million visitors per year, who attend the Parks free of charge. To prevent misuse of the landscape, it is crucial to build a value of value and respect for it.

    The NT views itself as a curator of experiences that aims to inform and engage. Even something as simple as a selfie can connect someone with an outdoor space, fostering a greater sense of value. And they encourage their visitors to tell them what they value most about the landscapes they explore.

    ‘Inspiring as well as wiring’

    There are multiple ways to convey the same message, and landscape managers, it seems, undertake them all.

    Deborah Sandals, Project Manager at Scottish Natural Heritage, makes substantial use of big data as part of a Scotland-wide monitoring programme. Working with a huge range of partners, SNH has provided a comprehensive information resource for every designated landscape in Scotland.

    But Alison Barnes made reference to taking a ‘hearts and minds’ approach alongside monitoring and data. Or, ‘inspiring as well as wiring’.

    Echoing discussions from yesterday’s placemaking session around competition and authenticity, she spoke about finding the ‘USP’ of an area. The value of a place lies not just in its benefits, but in the qualities that make it unique. Identifying these qualities fosters a sense of belonging for visitors and residents – which, for any place, is a value that is self-evident.

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