The aspects of our natural and cultural heritage which make up our landscape are so intertwined that any attempt to maintain an approach to the future use of our landscape which supports a sectoralised approach is to do that landscape a real disservice. Landscape must not be considered in neat compartments with, as in the recent past, each compartment (or use) working for its own interest and not seeking links which bring benefits to all. Real benefits are to be derived from co-operation, partnership, and co-ordination between all who impact on our landscape.
The Irish landscape is a living landscape in every sense of the word. It has and will continue to be used in an ever-changing variety of ways. We must be prepared to put in place systems and structures that will serve our landscape well, allowing its continued use and safeguard its value in a positive way for our children. We can use this approach to deliver a better kind of progress and achieve truly sustainable development. The evidence of how sensitive our landscape really is and the lack of sustainability of some uses to which it is put have been well documented.
The Heritage Council has chosen to focus on what, together, we can achieve. It is not therefore our purpose to reiterate the evidence of the past. Rather it is our intent to set out a vision for the Irish landscape in the future. The Heritage Counil's vision is that the Irish landscape will be a dynamic, living landscape, one which accommodates the physical and spiritual needs of people with the needs of nature in a harmonious manner, and as a result brings long term benefits to both.
This vision seeks to stress the interdependence of people and their landscape. It seeks to allow people to harness the landscape for economic benefit whilst acknowledging that in the long run such benefits can only be sustained through an appreciation and awareness of the contribution of that landscape to our quality of life. Decisions that affect that landscape must be taken from a very informed base.
The rural landscape provides us with the air that we breathe and the water we drink. Environment, landscape and heritage are inextricably linked. Our heritage rests within our landscape and our landscape rests within our environment. Increasingly, in an Irish context, the urban landscape is influencing the quality of life of Irish people. There is an onus on us all to ensure the policies that influence our landscapes are united in their endeavours to improve that quality. Our considerations must seek to secure the holistic and integrated approach that is required.