Benefits – Landscape
A landscape architect’s perspective, written by Lionel Fanshawe, Director, The terrafirma Consultancy Ltd.
The South Downs Project
It is not often that a project throws up the opportunities to realise pretty much all the aspirations of the strategic planning goals of a National Park and it is not often that one finds one that would exercise nearly every aspect of a landscape architect’s skill set. The Shoreham Cement works project has all of this and more…
It is over 30 years since I qualified as a landscape architect and it’s exactly 30 years since terra firma was founded. In those 30 years we have undertaken over 2000 projects, operated in 30 countries and currently have 30 staff across 4 offices, the head office located in the centre of Petersfield, my home town.
Having grown up among the Downs and as the only Landscape Institute practice based within the South Downs National Park, it is not surprising that we have been closely involved with SDNPA both in my capacity as a volunteer on the Design Review Panel and professionally with the firm assisting the authority in reviewing the landscape aspect of planning applications (except of course in the cases where we are the authors of proposals).
It may be of note that we have been involved with all three of the SDNPA Strategic Sites, albeit in very different ways; the North Street Quarter Lewes as a design panellist, the former Syngenta site Fernhurst where we have been responsible for the Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment and early design work and then now here at Shoreham Cement Works in a far fuller role to provide the full landscape design, planning and assessment remit.
By far and away this has to be the most exciting project currently on offer in the Park and it would be hard to see how it could be surpassed. It has all the ingredients of remediating a despoiled landscape through to masterplanning a truly sustainable after-use and on a scale that would make it the much awaited flagship project the Park is looking for.
As landscape architects we are all about intervention and change. Hopefully, always for the better and to meet sustainable ecological, economic and social objectives. While the proud history of the English Landscape tradition is not lost on our generation with the aesthetic and sensory endeavours to give a journey, sense of place and arrival to the beholder, we also have a transcending duty to the environmental agenda and facing up to the needs of changing and growing populations, declining biodiversity and the threat of climate change. I try to sum this up in the title of talks I give on what guides our work, whether it be here or overseas; “Green Infrastructure and a Sense of Place.”
Other landscape projects with relevance to the South Down Project
Our previous experience has taken us to many far flung places and on projects at all scales but it is probably worth mentioning 3 particular projects that would have a particular resonance to us in this:
At the largest scale, the regional environmental assessment and masterplanning undertaken for the Rosia Montana Goldfields in Romania’s Transylvania region; potentially Europe’s largest open cast goldmine where 2000 years of mining and cultural heritage, spectacular mountain scenery and pastoral landscape are to be balanced with bold new plans for a final 17 year phase of mining followed by extensive plans for remediation of a much despoiled landscape to new 21st century uses, restoring ecological integrity and enhancing multi-functional land use options for the future. It was never an option to simply consider restoration or preservation.
At midscale , the 37 hectare Enviropark project, an initiative of social en- terprise Portsmouth Partnership from a vision shared with Spinnaker Tower architect Hedley Greentree, to better realise the opportunity of- fered in restoring the old landfill site at north Harbour, to a landmark public park at the gateway to the city. The proposals included exemplars of all types of sustainable energy production, performance and event spaces, an urban farm and a wide offer for play and recreation. It came close to winning multi million pound lottery funding but was turned down for reasons pertaining to lack of cohesive political will at City Hall.
The third project I will mention is a far smaller one at only 6 hectares and only involves the creation of a single dwelling and its ‘gatehouse’. However, it is a project with a difference and great relevance to Shore- ham . Although just outside the National Park, in Northern Hampshire, it is set in an abandoned chalk quarry full of the disused sheds and ma- chinery of the old works and is an eyesore in dire need of remediation. Proposals include areas to be left alone to be gently managed for ecol- ogy and those to be massively transformed with new earth modelling, waterbodies, terraces and even cliff face restoration. This project is cur- rently underway and will be a spectacular microcosm of the kind of landscape envisaged for Shoreham as well as a timely technical proving ground for restored quarry soils, calcareous grassland establishment, chalk face hydroseeding and vegetation establishment.
Why the South Down Project is so important to the landscape
The opportunities at Shoreham give us as landscape architects, the chance to really make a difference, working with a talented team to realise a bold and exciting vision. It is a vision that meets pretty much all of the objectives of the National Park and in fact surpass them in the ambition to provide significant housing numbers , a factor to those of us who live here who know there is a dire need . Although significant housing numbers are outside current draft policies for this site, their inclusion would instead create a sustainable community with far more chance to ensure multi-functional uses are feasible. The economic realities underpinning the thinking on this team are one of its strongest points and in turn will ensure the green infrastructure is indeed deliverable for the long term. Our interpretation of sustainability is not short term, it should be measured in decades, if not centuries.
As a team we very much hope and will need to engage SDNPA to share this vision rather than it eclipse current thinking as Enviropark did further along the coast with its local authority, resulting in everyone’s loss of a great opportunity.
The terrafirma Consultancy.