Two important documents, and your input

January saw the release of two documents, one being the Historic Landscape Appraisal we’ve waited for since 2006, and the other being a revised scheme for Highbury Trust. Each document is important, and well worth reading, but for very different reasons.

Reading the Highbury Trust scheme is a matter of urgency, as it is open to your comments until February 21, and will have a significant impact on the future of Highbury. More on this in a few paragraphs, after outlining some issues relating to the the Historic Landscape survey.

Reading the 116-page landscape survey is a matter of broadening our understanding of the Highbury-Uffculme landscape, and of setting priorities for its future. As with the Highbury Trust, there are decisions to be made, some quite soon, and hopefully with your input.

The survey, commissioned through the Landscape Practice Group, and written by Phillada Ballard, is a comprehensive account of the landscape we know as Highbury, Uffculme, and Henburys. The first two sections of the report cover the development of each estate, plus the development of Highbury Park itself, then provides a detailed landscape survey covering structures, boundaries, and plantings. These sections are hugely informative, packed with 19th Century photos, and maps.

The third section focuses on recommendations for restoration and development, mainly on long-term restoration projects in 8 distinct areas of the park and Highbury estate, as shown in the map below. The recommendations also focus on two near-term possibilities: a play area for young children, and a mix of football, cricket and multi-use playing areas. These two possibilities came out of the consultation of a few years back, and fit well with the existing layout of the park. The Friends would be happy to support one or both of these ideas if we get positive feedback from our members. The most important thing for us is that with the landscape survey now complete, we can start to move forward on projects large and small, using the survey recommendations and public input as a basis for setting priorities. We will start posing questions soon, and hope to have lots of feedback.

The survey will be available in printed form at Kings Heath Library, the Central Library, and electronically here in our archive. The electronic version is watermarked as the survey is under copyright, firstly by Phillada, but also by the Ordnance Survey and the providers of various photos.

Now to the issue of Highbury Trust. You may have heard that the Chamberlain estate has been held in Trust by the Council since 1932, and that the Trustees have recently been making efforts to sell parts of the estate. We believe that any sale would have a very negative effect on prospects for restoration of gardens, so we have joined in a campaign to keep Highbury intact. We found, in December 2008, that the Charity Commission are willing to give the Trustees the right to sell some of the houses and gardens. The new scheme is subject to public comment until February 21, which means that you can help keep Highbury intact by adding your own comments at the Charity Commission website.

The comments page is on an obscure section of the Charity Commission website, but is easy to find using this link.* Please make your way there – now, if possible – to add your comments.

We will be writing to object on the following points:

  1. The estate is a rare example of intact house and gardens. Similarly, Uffculme is largely intact. The entire area is a cohesive entity, and should remain that way, with no piecemeal incursions for sale or development.
  2. Areas proposed for sale are within those listed by the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Historic Importance.
  3. Sale or further misuse of these gardens would diminish chances for restoration of other areas once the overall integrity is lost.
  4. The current Trustees have neglected both Hall and gardens for twenty years, and have ignored opportunities to keep the estate in charitable use through a combination of historic, leisure, social service and other schemes. The Trust should be expanded or reformed immediately, with no provisions for selling bits of the estate.
  5. We will query the reasoning for any right to sell. We believe the Trustees initiated this, rather than the Charity Commission, and that the reasoning should be made public.

We have put copies of the proposal in our web archive. It consists of

*http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/supportingcharities/schemes/sch000004.asp?PDFName=90550

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