The Great Lines is a former military landscape - the name used for the former Field of Fire associated with the Chatham Lines (fortified defences) that protected Chatham Dockyard from landward attack. Within its boundary, it contains an eighteen century fortress, a Scheduled Ancient Monument – the Lines, former pleasure grounds – the Officer’s Gardens and large expanses of open ground (the firing lines). The site provides the green backdrop to the urban centres of Chatham and Gillingham. The land is part of the World Heritage Site application for Chatham Dockyard and its Defences and is central to the regeneration of Medway and the Thames Gateway.
The park is currently underused and is perceived by some visitors as unsafe. Its defensive function and modern encroachment has resulted in a landscape that is difficult to understand, move around and that is not perceived as one park. The ramparts and ditches of Fort Amherst should act as the key signature and icon for the park, contributing both to its drama and the visitor experience. However, they also give rise to a landscape that is dangerous and difficult to open to the public. The areas currently open to the general public represent a small part of the whole, and the significance of the fortification and array of upper level bastions and batteries are difficult to be seen or understood.
Key elevations of the Fort are overgrown and obscured, so that’s its physical presence is greatly reduced. It has suffered from development within its curtilage, including buildings over the barrier ditch and the ‘Eye’ which dominates the historic entrance. It is at threat from further residential development at the base of its embankment which could have a significant adverse impact on the key view from Chatham Town Centre.
Fenced, hedged and overgrown boundaries create both visual and physical barriers separating the park from its adjacent population and are contrary to the historical character of the Great Lines. Piecemeal development in the form of post war housing and schools have resulted in Fort Amherst and the majority of the Lines being no longer connected to the Great Lines. Prince William’s Bastion, not open to the public, is the only vantage point where the historical link and visual connection can be made. Additionally, where Wood Street crosses the Lines, there is no sense of a passing through a threshold and the transition between the inside and outside of the fortified areas.
The vision for the Great Lines Heritage Park makes the most of its dramatic heritage and significance at local, national and international scales. The hidden layers in the existing landscape - military, domestic, 18th and 19th century - will be exposed and the historic defensive legacy of the site will be transformed into a contemporary and exciting park for the 21st century. The masterplan complements the vision for the future of Chatham and Gillingham town centres and will forge wider connections across Medway in line with the Greening the Gateway and Richard Rogers’ CLG Parklands strategies.
|Type of scheme||Historic parkand masterplan|
|Lead landscape architect||HTA Landscape Design|
To create a masterplan that transformed disparate areas under multiple ownership into a park with a coherent identity and to devise a framework that would enable this vision to be implemented in phases over several decades as funding became available.
The brief included:
• Creation of a new vision and masterplan
• Framework to inform future phases
• Design Guides
• Heritage trail within wider Medway
• Funding prospectus to attract inward investment
• Historical and archaeological research
• Condition survey
• Tree and ecological surveys
• Audience development plan
|Completion date||March 2011|
|Planning authority||Medway Council|
|Awards||Winner Local Landscape Planning and Highly commended, LI Awards 2011 Heritage and Conservation category|
Regeneration: Medway is a priority housing area in the Thames Gateway, Europe’s largest regeneration project and the park will provide a major recreation resource for its growing population.
Protection: The principles and conservation policies established in the masterplanning exercise will serve to protect the site and its heritage from future encroachment and deterioration.
Design Guides: Material and furniture guides to create consistency between projects and phases irrespective of the landowner, developer or designer. This has already been realised through design coordination with the Lower Lines Park, constructed as part of a project by Mid Kent College, the Great Lines project and the ongoing Fort Amherst restoration works.
|Keywords||LI Awards 2011|