Dear Sir or Madam,
The Irish Georgian Society welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Dublin City Parks Strategy Consultation Draft. The Society is a membership organisation, which encourages and promotes the conservation of distinguished examples of architecture and the allied arts of all periods in Ireland. These aims are achieved through our education programmes, by supporting and undertaking conservation works, publishing original research, planning participation and fundraising. The Irish Georgian Society is a strong advocate on the subject of the protection of historic landscapes and has held a number of educational events on historic gardens and landscapes, the most relevant to this consultation being the seminar entitled “Dublin’s Victorian and Edwardian Parks” held in conjunction with the Irish Landscape Institute in February 2013.
The Society supports Dublin City Council in its stated objective of “advancing the conservation and restoration of Dublin’s historic designed landscapes” and welcomes the strong conservation focus of the Dublin City Parks Strategy Consultation Draft. The Society further welcomes the emphasis placed by Dublin City Council in the Draft Strategy on the Florence Charter on Historic Gardens, which “defines historic gardens as architectural compositions and recommends their preservation as living monuments”.
The Society is, however, concerned about the mismatch in approach between different parks and, in particular, those parks of architectural heritage value. The Society is concerned that anything other than an integrated approach to the management of the historic parks will lead to the loss of features of architectural significance. In other words, it is respectfully submitted that, unless a survey of features of architectural heritage importance is carried out and a conservation management plan is prepared for all historic parks, some parks or some key features in some parks are likely to slip through the cracks. Errors in the Draft Strategy indicate that this is already happening. Specifically, in describing Herbert Park, the Draft Strategy states “The current park contains original historical features such as the pergola…”. Dublin City Council demolished the pergola and removed surrounding flower beds in 2011. This pergola and herbaceous beds were a fine example of Edwardian garden design in the Robinsonian style and of historical, cultural, horticultural and social interest. The pergola was opened to the public in 1913 and described at the time as “one of the finest examples of its kind in existence”. The demolition of the pergola and the removal of the herbaceous beds, in addition to being a matter of great regret to park users, indicates a lack of understanding of the importance of individual features within a historic garden to the integrity of the designed landscape as an architectural composition. Having regard to the importance of the pergola (as recognised in the Draft Strategy), the Society respectfully urges Dublin City Council to include an objective for the reinstatement of the pergola and herbaceous beds. The Draft Strategy does not propose the preparation of a conservation management plan for Herbert Park, but sets out that it is an objective of the Local Authority “to study its historic landscape and conservation value with a view to appropriately balance historic conservation and contemporary recreational demand”.
The Draft Strategy indicates that Dublin City Council will pursue a much stronger, conservation-centred approach in respect of the other flagship historic parks within the Council’s control. For example, the key management objectives for St Patrick’s Park include an objective to “maintain its historical design layout and its landscape as a setting for the adjacent Cathedral”, while the Council intends “to study [the] historic landscape and conservation value with the objective of retaining the historic estate character” of St Anne’s Park. In the absence of any survey, inventory or conservation management plan for Herbert Park, the basis upon which Dublin City Council would choose such a markedly different strategy for Herbert Park than the other historic parks is unclear. Practically speaking, any objectives for the conservation of Dublin’s parks as assets of heritage value is rendered meaningless in the absence of the preparation of an historic landscape assessment and an inventory of features of architectural heritage importance undertaken by a suitably qualified professional for each historic park. It is of critical importance that this work be undertaken for all flagship historic parks. Without this information, well-intentioned decisions will continue to be made as part of the day-to-day management of historic parks, which result in the loss of historic fabric and features and undermine the overall integrity of historic gardens, as has repeatedly already happened in the case of Herbert Park. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.
Irish Georgian Society