Britain’s most iconic new town and a vast national park could hold the key to successful funding and management models say industry leaders

Colne Valley Regional Park
Colne Valley Regional Park

Milton Keynes and Colne Valley Regional Park were discussed at the Ecobuild exhibition in March during a seminar chaired by Landscape Institute president-elect Sue Illman.

Philip Bowsher, head of landscape strategy and development at Milton Keynes Parks Trust, said his organisation had £75m property endowment and made £5m a year for upkeep of linear parks, balancing lakes and grazing land.

But housing expansion put strain on existing landscapes and resources. One way of raising funds was to restore derelict buildings and sell them as community or private buildings to pay for management and upkeep of land.

Management of Colne Valley, meanwhile, was at a “crossroads”, said Robin James, south-east business development manager at Groundwork UK. Threats to landscape included the proposed HS2 rail link. It too was looking at developing redundant buildings and farms to help fund six country parks near Uxbridge on which it currently spends £40,000 a year.

“The golden era of the public purse paying for development and management of regional parks is over. Even if the lottery is reformed after the Olympics to channel money to green funds, we have to be more lateral thinking on how these facilities are paid for and managed.”

Illman said: “Management plans typically run for five or 10-years, but when you have a legacy of 40 years you have to secure funding to implement that management in a sustainable way. How can we replicate or use that model on other existing landscapes in the long term?”

However, the time for sustainable development and management regardless of space was too late, Studio Engleback founder Luke Engleback told the seminar. World population had doubled since 1961 but land resources were the same. It was time for “ecological retreat”.

Engleback, who is working on Shopwyke Lakes housing project at Chichester Harbour, used multifunctional, multilayered landscapes from the start – not as an afterthought – because “if you take out elements it won’t work, like a machine without some of its nuts and bolts”.

Illman said: “We are moving from our dependence on the natural environment to a need for sustainable retreat that takes us through to functional but delightful landscapes that are fun and enjoyable for all.”

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