Landscape Decision Making

We are pleased to be in receipt of an AHRC award under their recent Landscape Decision Making network call. We will be working with project partners Historic England, Museum of English Rural Life, The Gardens Trust, Landscape Institute, Highways England, FOLAR and The Modernist Society and a wonderful team of academics, artists and activists.

The landscapes of motorways, power stations, reservoirs and other forms of infrastructure can now be easily overlooked. However, at their inception the aesthetics and ecologies of these developments were underwritten by statute and policy. The creation of landscapes around post-war power stations was informed by Section 37 of the Electricity Act (1957), later dubbed the ‘Amenity Clause’. It required the minimisation of the impact of generating and transmission sites on scenery, flora and fauna, which created aesthetic value as well ecologically important assets, and resulted in the appointment of landscape architects on new power station projects. In the same period the ‘public relation value’ of the landscapes of power stations became a crucial part of government policy.[1] This safeguarded the needs of communities and added another layer of cultural value to these landscapes. In 1961, Michael Porter was appointed as the first Landscape Advisor to the Ministry of Transport. The 1973 Water Act also created a duty to promote ‘amenity’ by the Regional Water Authorities.[2] Today, when the decommissioning of coal-fired and nuclear power stations is underway, and peri-urban sites, hosts to multiple forms of infrastructure, are under development pressure, the urgency of understanding, mapping and protecting such land assets needs new frameworks and clear methodologies for decision-makers.

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This network will unite an existing multidisciplinary team of academics with new members from government agencies, the private sector, community groups and artists to consider the landscapes of infrastructure broadly, but with attention to some specific cases. We are particularly concerned with the temporal aspects of landscape and the relationships between designed space and its assimilation with perceptibly natural and traditionally agricultural landscapes; how time and use can interact with landscape to create cultural and amenity value as well as valuable ecologies; how policy helped to foster such conditions; how policy now influences the management and development of these landscapes; how artistic and creative responses to the landscapes of infrastructure help to narrate their cultural worth; and, how to develop means of understanding their seemingly intangible values by comparing and combining research methods in the arts and humanities. Specifically, within the AHRC Heritage Priority Area Future Directions, the questions of ‘what counts as natural and cultural heritage?’ and ‘how and when are different types of heritage recognised, experienced, embraced, contested, represented or ignored?’ are central to the aims of this network. The social, cultural, ecological and amenity value of the landscapes of infrastructure are intrinsically bound with the communities around which they were developed. As these sites change, we seek to discover how to measure some of the intangible aspects of these landscapes and those which should be considered in their assessment, protection and development.

[1] Goulty, G. (1986) ‘Landscape Electric’, Landscape Design, August 1986, pp.34-37: 34.

[2] Aldous, T. & Clouston, B. (1979) Landscape by Design (London: William Heinemann Ltd.) p.79.

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