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Delivering a resilient world

By Merrick Denton-Thompson
The landscape profession occupies a unique place, positioned as we are between people and natural systems – we are committed to the sustainable management of irreplaceable resources as well as being transformers for the benefit of both. ‘Landscape as Infrastructure’ – the topic of this year’s Landscape Institute conference – boldly positioned landscape as the premier asset from which all of society can benefit. Our profession can demonstrate real financial returns from investing in landscape infrastructure across any country, securing strong economic performance, increasing capital values and making savings to the public purse by transforming the future health and wellbeing of the whole of society. 

We also intend to be at the forefront of challenging weaknesses in governance and legislative mechanisms, championing for instance the need to pursue ‘homes’ not ‘housing’, to modernise Green Belt legislation and to address the misalignment of public investment with the management plans of protected landscapes. We will take the lead in developing a new approach to landscape-led local plans, at the same time empowering local communities to drive the transformation of local landscapes. We are concerned about the state of childhood and we can use our professional experience and expertise to transform the lives of young people and improve their life chances and their health. We also have the necessary skills to meet many of the needs of the elderly, of those suffering from dementia and a range of other ailments. We are specialists in micro-climate manipulation and can build resilience into the landscape in preparation for unquantifiable climatic events. We saw this from landscape professionals spanning the globe from UK to the Middle East and China. 

The challenge set by the conference is to build the business case for the full range of desired outcomes within the framework set by the Natural Capital Committee here in the UK. At the same time real values need to be attributed to the basic elements of life, of clean water, clean air, restored soils and secure, sustainably produced food. However, the committee’s approach will only stand a chance if the accounting is audited by the Treasury and budgets are rebuilt from the base. Zero-based budgeting has rarely been achieved but that is the vehicle for refocussing the much needed, substantial, investment in the landscape! 

We can be certain of one thing – the ever increasing pressure put on our living conditions and natural systems will require us to play an increasingly important part in problem solving. This is an exciting time for the landscape profession and we need the ideas, innovation and collaboration from a new generation to meet these new challenges.

Merrick Denton-Thompson is president of the Landscape Institute.

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