Watershed landscape is key to environmental, social and economic development decisions

The Aarhus Convention guarantees the public’s right to information about, and participation in environmental decision-making by public bodies. 

As a member of the public, Fiona Hesselden attended the 29th January Pennine Prospects/Natural England Workshop on Working with National Character Areas : Profiles in Practice .

She reports on it here.

I attended the Pennine Prospects workshop on 29th January.

The focus throughout was the need for the landscape to be the starting point for conversations on environmental, social and economic development and decision making.

On the workshop front, there was a presentation by Nancy Stedman from Natural England about the National Character Profile that has been developed for the South Pennines as part of the South Pennines Watershed Landscape Project.

Under ‘Statements of Opportunity’ a number of interesting statements are made specifically about blanket bog:

“Statements of Environmental Opportunity

Safeguard, manage and enhance the large areas of open, expansive moorland, and the internationally important habitats and species they support, as well as protecting soils and water resources.

For example by: 

  • Restoring and improving ecological links between moorland habitats (blanket bog, upland heathland, species rich flushes and mires), for example through introducing responsive grazing regimes, to improve the condition of the vegetation and achieve a strong and resilient ecological network. 
  • Restoring degraded areas of blanket bog to active sphagnum dominated bog to promote peat formation.
  • Retaining water or managing run-off by re-wetting moorland (eg through blocking grips, but in ways that do not adversely impact on archaeological evidence or access) to bring blanket bog back into favourable ecological and hydrological condition. 
  • Restoring degraded heathland communities dominated by mat grass (Nardus stricta) to dwarf shrub communities, introducing sustainable grazing regimes to avoid poaching of soils and aid water infiltration, and ensuring that burning and cutting programmes will promote structural and biological diversity as well as avoiding loss of peaty soils through erosion or oxidation.”

These are listed as ‘statements’.  What was not clear was what status they would have – this is not a policy document.

The workshop session discussed the role the character profile could play in guiding authority planners when assessing schemes etc, but ‘guide’ seems to be the operative word here.

Dongria Kondh asked a question around mapping and whether or not this had been undertaken (with a view to getting a ‘line’ on a map that delineates the blanket bog so we can see – and then monitor – what is not supposed to be burnt). Something of this detail has not come out of this particular project.

We know that Natural England have made habitat mapping a condition of their Consent to Walshaw Moor Estate’s blanket bog burning, but this mapping hasn’t been done yet and there doesn’t seem to be any publicly available mapping that accurately delineates blanket bog on the rest of the South Pennines or elsewhere.

Robin Grey of Pennine Prospects presented a brief overview of some of the projects and community work and engagement to come out of the South Pennines Watershed Landscape Project including artwork and archaeology projects as well as footpath restoration and the Walk and Ride festival.

The South Pennines Watershed Landscape Project has just won the 2012 UK Landscape Award and has gone forward to compete in the European Landscape Awards 2013. It is being seen as a model for landscape partnerships.

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