Symposium addressed emerging landscape themes

Natural England outlines importance of landscape for all our futures

At a recent landscape symposium the chairman of Natural England,  Andrew Sells, outlined how a wider understanding of our landscape can help provide some of the answers to the big national challenges we face today.

Heading a list of prominent speakers, brought together and hosted by Natural England, Historic England and Newcastle University, Andrew highlighted that ‘as well as being an important connection to our past, landscapes are vital to our future. They are living, breathing and evolving systems – shaped both by human hand and natural processes. They provide many of the essential services on which we all depend like clean air and clean water’.

Emerging landscape themes
Following Andrew’s opening address, Maggie Roe (Senior Lecturer at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University) introduced the day’s keynote speaker, Carys Swanwick, emeritus professor at the department of landscape at the University of Sheffield. Carys focused on four key themes:

In between landscapes – reflecting on several landscapes that Carys has lived in over the years she described how they have and will continue to change. Many areas are under immense pressure and change in such areas are not being proactively planned and managed;

Thinking outside the box – Carys urged all to ‘come up with new ways of doing things and new sources of funds’. There are examples of good practice we can learn from, she said, including the National Forest where a landscape-led approach has helped create the setting for investment;

The language of landscape – the language of landscape matters and its use needs to adapt when discussing issues with both professionals and local communities;

Future generations – education in environmental values is going to be increasingly important and creative ways of engaging with youngsters is vital.

Other speakers focused on the concept that  ‘all landscapes matter’ rather than just special landscapes, on how the European Landscape Convention helps set the context for HLF Landscape Partnership bids and projects, and on the usefulness of cost-benefit analysis when discussing landscape issues.

Adrian Phillips, freelance consultant, and Jonathan Porter of Countryscape and UK president of IALE, provided an excellent summing-up including:

• An agenda based around landscape can act as a meeting ground between professionals helping to merge both the natural and social sciences;

• The ELC provides an excellent framework for the management, protection and creation of landscapes;

• Using landscape and place can be a strong focus for community engagement;

• Landscape cuts across local authority boundaries and can act as a catalyst for joint understanding and working;

• Landscape cuts across sectors and can forge new partnerships between, for example, approaches based around catchments and National Character Areas;

• The landscape profession, working with others, needs to share knowledge more.

Next steps

There were many issues raised throughout the day and the next steps, for Natural England and others, is to look at these and begin to focus on what can be practically developed via a partnership approach. The newly formed Natural England Landscape Advisory Group will help in taking this forward.

Details of all the presentations can be found on Newcastle University’s website .

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