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Maintenance, Repair and Conservation Management Plans

Maintenance and repair are needed to tackle the inevitable decay and deterioration of landscape design features and plantings that occurs because of age, neglect, wear and tear by users, pests and diseases, and increasingly climate change impacts.

This page covers:

What is maintenance?

We define maintenance as “routine work necessary to keep the fabric of a place in good order” Conservation Principles 2008.

The main objective of maintenance is to limit deterioration. Although it is often seen as mundane, maintenance forms a cornerstone of garden conservation. Maintenance is cost-effective, the time and money spent on routine care, regular surveys and minor repairs protect the value of the historic park and garden. Good maintenance also helps to ensure the health and safety of users and visitors.

A historic photo of the garden team at Audley End
A historic photo of the garden team at Audley End © Historic England Archive

What is repair?

We define repair as “work beyond the scope of maintenance, to remedy defects caused by decay, damage or use, including minor adaptation to achieve a sustainable outcome, but not involving alteration or restoration” Conservation Principles 2008.

Repair is normally carried out to sustain the significance of historic parks and gardens. Equally important in most cases is keeping the designed landscape in use, which is the best way to safeguard its future.

Find out more about principles of repair.

What is restoration?

Our Conservation Principles 2008 defines restoration as returning a historic park and garden to “a known earlier state, on the basis of compelling evidence, without conjecture”. The criteria include:

  • Weighing up the effect of change restoration work would bring to the heritage values of the historic park and garden
  • Compelling evidence for the restoration work
  • The proposed work respects previous forms of the historic park and garden
  • The maintenance implications of the proposed restoration are considered to be sustainable

The distinction between restoration and repair can sometimes become blurred when design details and or decorative elements that are important to the character and appearance of the designed landscape become eroded or damaged.

Often a programme of repair provides an opportunity for the reinstatement of missing elements, provided:

  • Sufficient evidence exists for an accurate replacement
  • No loss of historic fabric occurs
  • The necessary consents are obtained in advance

In some circumstances, restoration may provide conservation benefits that cannot be achieved through repair alone.

Historic landscape design plan of Heveningham Hall, Suffolk
Historic landscape design plan of Heveningham Hall, Suffolk © Historic England Archive

Conservation management plans

In caring for, or managing change in, historic parks, gardens and other landscapes, there are often many features, historic layers and diverse interests to consider. For example biodiversity has to be considered alongside the business and economic viability of the property whether it is a home, agricultural estate, public park, hotel or visitor attraction.

Conservation management plans have been developed as a tool to help pull together an understanding of what matters and why, and how to conserve and manage it. From this informed basis, plans are then used to develop programmes of repair, restoration or to draw up proposals for change.

You'll need to give thought to the sort of plan you need, how to develop it and your budget. Expert consultants may help to prepare your plan but it's essential that the property team are closely involved and help shape it.

Conservation management plans don't need to be lengthy documents but large and complex historic parks and gardens may require a range of research and survey information. The best plans are structured to meet the needs of the specific property and designed to be used for every day reference by staff managing the site.

Here are links for published guidance on preparing plans for historic parks and gardens. The range of guidance reflects how plans are used to support restoration projects, new developments or agri-environment schemes like Countryside Stewardship. There are a range of terms for these plans. We prefer to call them conservation management plans.

  • Historic England’s Conservation Principles provide a framework for guidance on policies for repair, intervention, restoration, new work and alteration and enabling development.
  • Heritage Lottery Fund’s Conservation Plan Guidance has been drawn up for Parks for People grant projects but it is very useful advice for other sites too. The guidance explains how to commission a plan, what it needs to cover, and involving stakeholders.
  • Heritage Lottery Fund also publishes guidance on preparing management and maintenance plans.
  • CABESpace (2004) A Guide to Producing Parks and Green Space Management Plans is also useful for public parks.
  • Natural England publishes guidance on plans for conditional exemption from capital taxation or related maintenance funds. The guidance is also useful for large country estates.
  • Forestry Commission provides advice on woodland management plans.
  • Examples of management plans can be found online.
  • Advice on researching historic parks and gardens is published in David Lambert, Peter Goodchild and Judith Robert’s 2006 'Parks and Gardens: A Researcher’s Guide to Sources for Designed Landscapes'. Since this book was published there are many more online resources.

Learn more

The Management and Maintenance of Historic Parks, Gardens and Landscapes (Edited by John Watkins and Tom Wright, Published 2007) is a reference manual written for professionals, land agents, designers, gardeners, managers, students and owners. The book is divided into four sections:

  • Understanding and planning the historic landscape and garden – Historic perspective, conservation management plan process, managing historic parks and gardens, the legal framework
  • The living garden landscape - Maintenance and management practice of trees, shrubs, perennials and other plants, and garden features like rock gardens, parterres and more; nature conservation, weed, pests and disease control and machinery.
  • Case studies - Brodsworth Hall, Chatsworth, Down House, Great Dixter, Hampton Court, Levens Hall, Sheffield Botanic Garden, Sheffield Park Garden, Squerryes Court and Stonehenge.
  • Appendices - There are tables on the dates of introduction for trees, conifers, rhododendrons, shrubs, herbaceous plants, fruit and vegetables. There are other appendices on glasshouse displays, hedge maintenance, pests and diseases, and so on.

Front cover image of The Mangement and Maintenance of Historic Parks Gardens and Landscapes - The English Heritage Handbook. Edited by John Watkins and Tom Wright
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