National Context

English Heritage's work on Historic Landscape which started in the early 1990s emerged from increasing concerns to find a better way to incorporate historic depth and character in approaches to landscape conservation, and more generally to promote a more integrated, less site-based approach to heritage conservation and sustainability, firmly linked in to wider environmental issues.

In 1993-94, English Heritage commissioned a research project on approaches to historic landscape assessment from Cobhams (now Scott Wilson) Resource Consultants and Oxford Archaeological Unit (the same team that has compiled the Hampshire assessment). The project explored theory and methodology, reviewed current practices of historic landscape work and recommended an overall approach to assessment based on well-established procedures. The work led us away from the temptation that government had laid before us in the "Common Inheritance" White Paper, of trying to identify "special" landscape for a national selective register. It pointed us instead towards an approach based on universal character, which served many conservation purposes, and which fitted into then-emerging ideas of sustainability.

Since 1994, progress in England has taken two forms: first, application of the method to other areas at a similar, mainly county level, scale, and second, the development, modification and "proving" of the techniques, both in the new areas and in Cornwall. In the latter category, the main areas of development have been the increasing use of GIS-techniques, and experimenting with use of historic maps and of more complex typologies. Specifications for each project have drawn on their predecessors, especially the project in Cornwall, Avon and the Cotswolds, and the methodology has therefore evolved through practice as well as continuing to be informed by theory, and is still developing.

Somewhat different approaches, based within the same set of concepts and similar principles have been developed by Cadw in Wales and by Historic Scotland north of the Border.

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