A drone shot of brick cemetery walls.
Sheffield General Cemetery, Cemetery Avenue, Sharrow Vale, Sheffield, South Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive. DP372281.
Sheffield General Cemetery, Cemetery Avenue, Sharrow Vale, Sheffield, South Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive. DP372281.

Registered Parks and Gardens at Risk

More than 1,700 parks and gardens in England are designated as being of national importance. These are included in the 'Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England'.

There are many types of designed landscape. They are the result of centuries of work by both private individuals and public bodies. Designed landscapes make a special contribution to the historic environment of our countryside, cities and towns.

Without proper care and investment these fragile landscapes can easily be damaged beyond repair or lost forever. We want to help their owners to find practical and affordable ways of safeguarding their future.

Threats to registered parks and gardens

There are many issues and challenges facing historic parks and gardens. Their historic character and fabric can be easily harmed by:

  • New construction – for example new buildings, building extensions, roads and transport infrastructure, quarrying and mineral workings
  • Changes in the setting or views
  • Changes in farming and woodland management
  • Changes to the treescape, hedgerows, fences and boundaries
  • Changes to the water table, and pollution
  • Neglect or abandonment leading to overgrown trees, shrubs and scrub, lost features and views, and silted-up lakes
  • Inappropriate wildlife habitat schemes
  • Poor maintenance of garden buildings and structures, walls, paths and steps
  • Poorly designed visitor developments
  • Unsustainable growth in visitor numbers and events, and temporary structures – marquees, temporary tracks and additional access points, visitor facilities
  • New garden or landscape design interventions
  • Intrusive lighting, smells and noise
  • Divided and fragmented ownership placing differing demands on parts of the landscape

Under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), registered historic parks and gardens are considered heritage assets like listed buildings or scheduled monuments. We recognise that development is often vital to the long-term sustainability of a park or garden. But insensitive and cumulative change can unintentionally undermine the very essence of the historic design.

The Heritage at Risk Register includes all grades (Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II) of registered historic parks and gardens. There are also individual park and garden features on the HAR Register. These include listed buildings such as garden walls, lodges, follies and temples.

South Cliff Gardens

South Cliff Gardens were removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2023, thanks to the efforts of the Friends of the South Cliff Gardens and Scarborough Borough Council (now North Yorkshire Council) together with funding of a £7m restoration project from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the National Lottery Community Fund, the Council and local fundraising.

Solutions for registered parks and gardens on the register

We recognise that registered parks and gardens are complex sites, often presenting unique challenges.

These complex landscapes often require significant monetary investment. They also need commitment from their owners to achieve the positive management necessary, so that they can be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

They can occupy large areas, they are frequently associated with other heritage assets at risk, and they may be in multiple ownership. This can make a holistic approach to their conservation difficult to take forward.

To tackle this, Historic England's landscape architects promote bespoke initiatives that help to remove parks and gardens from the Heritage at Risk Register.

Our own grant funding, as well as that from other funding bodies such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Natural England (through the Countryside Stewardship scheme and its successor), delivers repair solutions for designed landscapes.

Pressure on public finances presents a challenge for many of our most celebrated public parks and cemeteries. Climate change is also providing an increasing challenge through patterns of extreme weather including flooding. The spread of new pests and diseases poses risks too. Demand for land for development calls for creative design solutions that do not damage the significance of historic parks and gardens.

It is only by thoroughly understanding the challenges facing individual parks and gardens that we can work out effective solutions. We can then play a key role in bringing about close and effective co-operation between owners, land managers and funding partners to make a real difference to historic designed landscapes at risk:

  • Analysing the problems facing a landscape
  • Helping to identify the opportunities
  • Advising on conservation management planning
  • Helping to work out where alterations, modifications and interventions can be made
  • Identifying and realising the potential of parks and gardens to help mitigate the effects of climate change
  • Investigating the feasibility of alternative future uses
  • Helping to broker solutions
  • Providing information on funding such as National Lottery Heritage Fund and Countryside Stewardship

Our pages on Looking after Parks, Gardens and Landscapes offer technical guidance for people caring for and managing these sites.