Country house owners working together to share experiences and to increase awareness of the value of historic estates for the local community and for nature.
Bronckhorst is a unique municipality. Nowhere else in the Netherlands are there so many beautifully preserved historic country houses and estates. The Bronckhorster Kroonjuwelen Beraad (BKB) was founded in 2013, bringing together the owners of these properties (the so-called ‘complex rijksbeschermde buitenplaatsen’) which are all listed on the National Monument Register. Some are owned privately, others by institutions. Thus, the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation (Natuurmonumenten) and the Gelderland Trust (Gelders Landschap en Kasteelen) are both involved in the network, as well as the landscape park of De Wiersse, which was part of the Innocastle study visit.
The main goal of the BKB is to better conserve country houses and estates. They do this by working together, sharing knowledge and growing awareness. They also aim to build support and partnership with government bodies.
By joining forces, owners can collaborate on conservation issues such as water management. They can share the costs – and benefits – of developing new economic models or business plans. And they can work together to recruit volunteers.
The BKB is a coalition which works transparently within an agreed framework. It seeks to share information amongst owners and with the outside world in equal measure.
The main stakeholders are the country house owners and government officials. The main beneficiaries are the owners and public who visit them.
Time and energy! The estate owners are all invested in the project. The BKB comes together regularly at one of the estates. Each owner organises a meeting, charging nothing.
Evidence of success
Thanks to the BKB, local politicians have become more aware of the values of country estates (heritage, nature, community, economic etc). As a result, the country estates are better embedded in local policy. Bronckhorst municipality has become more active (changing their role from passive to active). For instance, the municipality has initiated several stakeholder meetings and brainstorming sessions about the value of heritage and new possible developments at a particular estate.
Not all owners feel comfortable joining such stakeholder meetings, where people discuss the future of their property. Such methods require a high level of trust amongst the participants in order to work well.
Potential for learning or transfer
The BKB experience shows that when both private landowners and trusts, work together they can be a powerful, effective and independent voice for country houses and estates.
The BKB is able to deliver a strong message to government and it has become easier to discuss actual challenges and developments regarding country estates with the municipality and other politicians or experts.
The owners have also found it very valuable to exchange knowledge and sometimes even tools for addressing similar challenges.
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