5.2.3 Policy and guidance

Protection is not simply about (passive) designation (see Section 5.2.2); the legislation is supported by policy and guidance. Good management practices, rather than just being enforced, need to be adopted and enabled by guidance and policies that encourage carved stones to be valued. Currently, the extent and nature of internal guidance for different types of owners and managers of carved stones (see Section 5.2.1) is unclear. Core national policy and guidance for carved stones includes the Scottish Executive’s 2005 Policy and Guidance for Carved Stones (although not mentioned in SHEP: Historic Scotland 2011 or HESPS: Historic Environment Scotland 2016) and HS’s Conservation of Historic Graveyards (Maxwell et al. 2001; see Sections 2.8 and 10.8 for further examples).

While resources have been allocated for research to develop guidance or systems to assess risks to carved stones, these have not always sought input from their intended target audiences or been followed up by studies to assess their effectiveness in practice. For example, Maxwell et al. 2001 is strong in many important areas of graveyard conservation but some of the best practice recommendations (for example for grass maintenance; Figure 97) are simply unachievable within available local authority budgets. Furthermore no guidance is provided on health and safety, one of the major priorities for cemetery managers. Although the lack of guidance in this area was remedied by HS in 2003, anecdotal evidence suggests that this has had limited effect upon local authority gravestone health-and-safety testing programmes. In other cases, we find research on carved stone condition and risk assessment has not been fully utilised to help create guidance or develop policies. For example, Thomson’s 2000 development of a risk-assessment model for Scottish market crosses has the potential to be applied to other categories of carved stones (see also the Carved Stone Decay in Scotland Assessment Methodology Handbook; Section 2.6.3). In other instances, local or regional projects are developing good practice but often information is not being widely shared through guidance literature or published as cases studies. One such example is PKHT’s Historic Churchyards project, which piloted the use of different planting schemes aimed at limiting damage to historic stonework from grass cutting.

Figure 97: Gravel is used in in this churchyard to avoid the burden of grass maintenance at the expense of the site’s historic character. © Susan Buckham

Anecdotal evidence suggests that current best practice guidance for carved stones is not being widely followed. Research is needed to understand why this is the case, the impact of this upon carved stone preservation and the potential that exists to raise standards (for example Figure 98) Research should prioritise identifying the types of situations that involve more arbitrary decision-making on the appropriate conservation actions. How do judgements vary, for example, where it is deemed necessary to remove or cover stones? Where are the most important gaps in knowledge (for example assessing significance or repair techniques)? How significant are factors such as a lack of (craft) skills and knowledge, public attitudes, available resources and the mechanisms to deliver management services? What are the connections between awareness, value, protection and policy and how can we capitalise on these? Once we can answer these questions we will be better placed to develop best-practice guidance and policies, to enable the implementation of this and monitor its effectiveness on an ongoing basis with future research.

Figure 98: The moss from this gravestone has been removed using a rake. © Susan Buckham

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