Merger Between the GHS and the AGT?

Merger Between the Garden History Society and the Association of Gardens Trusts?

Garden History Society (GHS) members and County Gardens Trusts (CGTs) are invited to give their views on the possibility of a merger between the GHS and the Association of Gardens Trusts (AGT).

The GHS, founded in 1965, brings together all those interested in garden history in its various aspects. The GHS has approximately 1300 individual members, organises lectures, study days, etc. for its members and publishes a Journal and newsletters. The GHS is a statutory consultee, i.e. local planning authorities have to consult the GHS for their views on the impact of planning applications on gardens and designed landscapes included in the English Heritage Register.

The AGT, formed in 1993, is the national umbrella body for the 36 CGTs covering England and Wales. The CGTs are independent charities undertaking survey and research, planning and conservation and educational activities in their local area and organising lectures, garden visits and other activities for their members. The CGTs undertake the majority of the casework, responding to planning applications referred to the GHS as statutory consultee.

Since 2011 the GHS, the AGT, Parks & Gardens UK and the Garden Museum have been committed to working in partnership. In particular the GHS and the AGT have been investigating the issues and steps towards a possible merger. In 2013 the GHS Council and the AGT Committee of Management agreed to set up a joint Merger Project Board. The Project board has produced an Interim Report, now available on the GHS and AGT websites, which GHS members and CGTs are encouraged to read and comment upon.
The aims of a possible merger would be to create a stronger, more efficient and effective national organisation, which would:
1. speak with a more powerful voice for the protection of parks, gardens and designed landscapes
2. be an internationally regarded centre of excellence in the study of garden history
3. play a key garden conservation role in the planning system as a statutory consultee
4. provide more resources to support and strengthen the local activity of the CGTs.

The Project Board’s interim report sets out the potential advantages and benefits of a merger and the potential disadvantages and risks. The Project Board believes there are a number of possible benefits to a merger. Of particular note is the potential strength of a new national organisation, which could be more robust than either the GHS or the AGT individually, coupled with a potentially stronger and more supportive link between the national body and the CGTs. The interim report outlines the options for a merger and some of the costs. The Project Board proposes that an in principle decision to merge or not should be taken at the AGMs of the GHS and AGT in July and September 2014.
To inform the discussion at the AGMs the Project Board will write a final report.

Comments from GHS members and CGTs on the interim report will be considered in preparing the final report. The Interim Report can be downloaded here. Comments from GHS members should be sent to Jeremy Garnett, GHS Honorary Secretary. Hard copies of the interim report are obtainable to GHS members from 70 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6EJ. Comments from CGTs should be sent to Mike Dawson, AGT Vice Chairman. Comments should be received by Monday 14 April 2014.

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Painswick Roccoco Gardens, the Red House, Photo © Joab Smith