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A tribute to a conservation pioneer

In the working life of a landscape architect there will always be a small number of pioneers who change landscape policy for the better. Oliver Rackham, who died on the 12 February 2015 was one such example as he changed national policy on the management of our woodlands. An ecologist, botanist and historian he spent his whole life at Corpus Christi, Cambridge changing long held preconceptions about how the British countryside and particularly woodlands had been created.

Olive Rackham

In the 1970s I was a member of an amenity society in Essex and was shown a confidential paper drafted by Rackham criticising the National Trust management regime of Hatfield Forest. To be fair to the Trust their management was replicated by landowners across the country but it was Rackham who pointed out that it was wrong to clear native woodlands and re-plant them with conifers. Talk about a hot potato. It was early days in the environmental movement; we were all regarded as complete eccentrics and challenging establishment practices was no easy task. Rackham never gave up; he developed the concept of ‘ancient woodland’, high in value for biodiversity and managed by traditional methods. In 1985 the Forestry Commission finally adopted a new policy for the management of native woodland changing hearts and minds and Wholesale NFL Jerseys working practices for the better across the UK.

All woodland that has existed continuously since 1600 is now designated as ancient woodland. Not all ancient woodlands are protected but awareness of their value is much greater with a mention in paragraph 1181 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Veteran Tree

The obituary in The Times reports that Rackham’s students needed a great deal of energy to keep up with him out on site as he would stride off abruptly to look at ‘some hedgerow or pollard [that] caught his interest’. I can vouch for this behaviour. A friend asked Rackham to visit Hatfield Park, just south of Stansted Airport, to look at a ditch and bank that he thought were the earthworks of a medieval deer park boundary. I was invited along; Rackham and my friend set off across the fields at a cracking pace. Unfortunately I was half way through my convalescence after a serious operation; no allowance was made for my infirmity and as they became two dots on the horizon I turned tail and went home.

Rackham also raised awareness of the uniqueness of the extraordinary number of veteran trees in the UK landscape and wrote several highly readable and accessible books including Trees and Woodlands in the British Landscape (1976), Ancient Woodland: Its

History, Vegetation and Uses in England (1980), The Last Forest: The Story of Hatfield Forest (1989), The Illustrated History of the Countryside (1994) and Woodlands (2006). His last book was The Ash Tree (2014) was prompted by the spread of ash dieback (Chalara).

Oliver Rackham

It is hard to know if our generation is promoting management

practices that are damaging or unsustainable to our landscape. 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Section 106 Agreements get a rethink

‘The Community Infrastructure Levy is the Government’s preferred mechanism for collecting developer contributions to infrastructure’ as

part of a planning permission but ‘planning obligations entered into under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (“Section 106 agreements”) continue to play an important role in securing mitigation to make proposed developments acceptable’. These quotes come from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation, Section 106 Planning Obligations – speeding up negotiations.

S106 Image

The key issue in the consultation proposes that topics that would lie within a Section 106 should be addressed early on and negotiations should run concurrently with the standard 8 to 13 weeks for a planning application rather than being left until after the planning committee has made a decision.

Getting your head around Section 106 Agreements is important to our work as landscape architects; they can be vital in securing site-related public open space, green infrastructure and the long term management of a landscape. If a developer wants a reputation for good quality development as an aid to future sales then what better than achieving a well-laid-out and maintained public open space

that potential buyers can visit.

S106 Image

Getting this on the ground however can be a painful process. The longest negotiation we had for a Section 106 for a public open space was two years. The lawyers finally resolved everything, the agreement Wholesale NFL Jerseys was signed but then someone realised that the mortgage lender of one of the parties had not been included and the document had to be redrafted. Work started, the recession came and the site plunged in value. The developer was committed to supplying the open space up front and had to complete it without the benefit of follow-on sales. This was all planned in a buoyant and optimistic market that did not work out as anticipated. Without the two year delay the outcome may have different.

S106 Image

Phasing can also be complicated. I remember spending a day working out the Section 106 sequence of implementation on a housing site for just a 100 houses which the client had given up on and passed to us to unravel. There were three areas of open space and each had to be ‘implemented’ (but not ‘grown in’ so the public could use it) before a certain number of houses were occupied. Further clauses set out which open spaces had to be available for public use before the next set of houses were occupied. In addition there was a fenced-off area for nature conservation benefit and this had a prescriptive list of actions at specific times of the year which had baffled our client. Needless to say this was all in incomprehensible lawyer-speak but by the end of the day we had a table with a programme of actions which

both the developer and the local authority planners appreciated.

Bringing the process forward increases costs for the developer up front but if the process is simplified and streamlined as is proposed perhaps it will save the developers money in the long run.

There is quite a bit more to this consultation than the timing issues so if you work in this area do check it out. You have until the 19th March to respond.

 

Existing arrangements for Section 106 Agreements: http://www.pas.gov.uk/3-community-infrastructure-levy-cil/-/journal_content/56/332612/4090701/ARTICLE

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From imagination to reality

The Dolorean

If you were to watch the 1989 movie ‘Back to the Future Part II’ now, in 2015, the era in which the film is set, you may find that some of the technology it features looks rather familiar. This is thanks to the imagination of the screenwriter, Bob Gale, who co-wrote the film with Robert Zemeckis.

McFly!

Hendo, a California-based company, has developed a prototype hoverboard, Google Glass has already made interactive eyewear – though the public is less than convinced – and, by the end of the year, you will be able to buy trainers with self-tying laces. Yes, really.

As a landscape architect, I am interested in how these technological changes we now enjoy have shaped our twenty-first century landscape. Mobile phones, for example, are a source of entertainment as well as a communication tool – but now we often walk around staring at a screen, not seeing the world around us. So the concept of the landscape as a designed space for social congregation, once at the forefront of plaza and small urban space design, is diminishing.

Distracted Mobile User

Gale did not foresee the internet, a glaring omission, perhaps. Its creation has enabled globalisation – whether this is good or bad depends on your viewpoint. Certainly, we can collaborate with anyone, anywhere, irrespective of physical boundaries. However, on the flip side, we are in danger of creating a world where, as the late Ian Nairn, a former architecture critic at the Observer noted: ‘the end of Southampton will look like the beginning of Carlisle; the parts in between will look like the end of Carlisle or the beginning of Southampton.’

Internet Inspiration

With an overwhelming 40 years left in landscape architecture (fingers crossed), the advancements that could be made during my career are incomprehensible. But it’s fun to speculate. So let’s speed into a future where one of Bob Gale’s predictions came true – the flying car. What would you find? A world without roads, streets dominated by the needs of pedestrians, a countryside no longer dissected by motorways and nature in harmony. The air would be cleaner, I would hope, pollution lessened.

Innovation is progress and this one vehicular revolution could dramatically change the future. But, as the song says, ‘the future’s not ours to see’ – except, perhaps, at the movies. So we shall have to patiently wait to discover what it holds for us.