The Parks Agency was set up in 2002 by Stewart Harding and David Lambert, who have worked together for more than twenty-five years to save parks from development, protect them through the planning system and to improve them through various grant schemes and other initiatives. Stewart has finally hung up his mighty pen in favour of the fork and hoe on his allotment but his insight and indignation remain the PA’s guiding star, now as an Honorary Consultant rather than a Director.
The Parks Agency’s work has encompassed research and development for local authorities and national bodies such as CABE Space, English Heritage, the National Trust and Natural England. We undertake historic landscape research, consultancy on public park management, conservation planning, as well as expert advice, mentoring and monitoring for the Heritage Lottery Fund. Both Stewart and David have lectured and published widely. The PA’s experience means that we are prepared to help with anything you can come up with!
Stewart Harding, BA (Hons), PhD
Stewart has extensive experience in all aspects of the management, improvement, promotion and evaluation of parks, gardens and open spaces and is an acknowledged national expert in the field (full curriculum vitae). He has written and lectured extensively on topics relating to the restoration of historic designed landscapes (Publications).
During his undergraduate studies as a mature student at Bristol Polytechnic, Stewart set up the Stoke Park Restoration Trust to curtail proposed development of the 18th century Thomas Wright landscape and to restore the lake, gates and memorials. After receiving a first class honours degree he developed a unique action-research methodology for his PhD in the conservation of historic landscapes attached to former asylums and hospitals. During this period he ran the Avon County Council historic parks and gardens survey and became Conservation Officer for the Avon Gardens Trust and, later, its Chairman. He also gained a distinction in a Planning Law course at Bristol Poly and went on to complete the University of the West of England’s first doctorate.
In 1990 he took over the Countryside Commission’s Task Force Trees grant scheme for historic parks and gardens in the south west, awarding grants to 50 sites including The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Trebah in Cornwall, Hestercombe in Somerset, Ashton Court in Bristol and Royal Victoria Park in Bath.
Stewart was seconded to the Heritage Lottery Fund to establish and run its Urban Parks Programme from 1996 to 2000 which awarded £185 million to 200 public parks. On completing his secondment he set up the Country Parks renaissance for the Countryside Agency, pioneering the first country park restoration with HLF funding at Lydiard Park in Wiltshire and laying the foundations for further work in this area. It was his initiative to set up the Parks Agency in 2002, not only as a consultancy, but as a campaigning body.
David Lambert, MA, IHBC
David is an acknowledged expert on the conservation of historic parks and gardens. He has been influential in the development of heritage policy and is also a leading authority on researching the history of parks and gardens.
After a first-class degree in English from Oxford, David went on to teach briefly at Clifton College in Bristol before becoming a Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies at the University of York. He then became Conservation Officer for the Garden History Society and oversaw the development of the GHS as a statutory consultee in the planning process.
In 1993, he and Hazel Conway wrote Public Prospects, one of the first reports to draw attention to the crisis in public parks, and he has been closely involved in the renaissance of urban parks over the following twenty years. He served as special adviser to three House of Commons Select Committee inquiries and is currently a member of English Heritage’s Advisory Committee, as well as the advisory committees of Historic Royal Palaces and the World Monuments Fund. He is also a member of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
He has lectured and published widely on the subject of historic parks and gardens. His publications include The Park Keeper, Parks and Gardens: a researcher’s guide and guides to the public parks of Bristol and Weston-super-Mare. He has written the Perambulator column in the The London Gardener for many years, and most recently he has published a guide to War Memorial Parks and Gardens for English Heritage. He is a trustee of the Gardens Trust and a member of its conservation committee and in 2016 edited its report on public parks, Uncertain Prospects: public parks in the new age of austerity, followed in 2017 by Vulnerability Brown: Capability Brown landscapes at risk.
Recent work for the Parks Agency includes:
- A history of the garden at Naworth Castle, Cumbria, 2018
- A review of the City of London Cemetery Conservation Management Plan for the Corporation of London, 2017-18
- A history of the Great Vine at Hampton Court for Historic Royal Palaces, 2017-18
- A Conservation Management Plan for the HLF bid for Willesden Jewish Cemetery, 2016
- Historic landscape advice on the rock garden at Chatsworth, 2016
- Advice on historic planting for Regent’s Park terrace gardens, 2015-16
- A historic landscape report on Fort Belvedere, Windsor, 2015
- A report on War Memorial Parks for English Heritage, 2014
- A public consultation and masterplan for the walled garden at Allesley Park for Coventry City Council, 2013-14
- External advice, monitoring and mentoring on over twenty HLF Parks for People projects