Derbyshire County Council is determined to maintain and improve its natural countryside and rural areas after launching a nature recovery strategy, as the National Parks Societies call for political parties to commit to revitalising England’s protected landscapes.
More than 100 delegates, including local farming, environmental, wildlife and biodiversity experts, met at the first Derbyshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy Conference. The event was hosted by the county council at its County Hall offices in Matlock to discuss working together on a plan called the Local Nature Recovery Strategy.
The meeting coincided with the 75th anniversary of the founding of the National Parks. The nine National Park Societies members, including charity CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire, also signed a joint letter urging political parties to put forward manifesto commitments at the next UK election to revitalise protected landscapes.
Derbyshire County Councillor, Carolyn Renwick, cabinet member for Infrastructure and Environment, who chaired the conference, said: “When nature thrives, we all benefit. By working in partnership with local residents, groups, businesses, landowners and other organisations, we can focus and co-ordinate all our efforts to help nature flourish, which in turn will help to address three of the biggest challenges we face: biodiversity loss, climate change and wellbeing.”
The council-backed Local Nature Recovery Strategy aims to protect and prioritise nature, which was discussed at the conference at County Hall, as the local authority showed its commitment to working with others to preserve and improve Derbyshire’s fabulous natural environment including the Peak District National Park.
As one of 48 councils across the country selected by the government to lead the strategy, the county council will map the location and condition of Derbyshire’s habitats and identify where biodiversity is in decline or limited in ecosystem value.
It will also set out the long-term vision and action plan for local organisations, businesses, landowners and the public to work together to improve the natural environment across Derbyshire, including Derby and the county’s Peak District National Park.
Following the meeting, Cllr Renwick added: “There have been some really interesting and productive discussions today which is a great start, and we look forward to opening up wider discussions with our communities as part of the process to build a Local Nature Recovery Strategy later in the year.”
Speakers at the Derbyshire conference included Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness at the University of Derby; Natural England advisers Rosie East and Sami Lawson; Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Matt Buckler; and Andrew Critchlow, Derbyshire County Adviser for the National Farmers Union.
The National Park Societies and Campaign for National Parks’ letter highlights the vital role that National Parks can play in tackling the nature, climate, health and societal crises facing the UK if properly supported by an ambitious programme of action at the next Westminster election.
They have also published an eight-point manifesto programme to secure the long-term health of National Parks, like the Peak District, which includes ensuring that every child visits a National Park as part of the national curriculum, insisting upon greater regulation of Airbnb and holiday lets in National Parks, and the introduction of visitor levies where appropriate to manage tourist numbers.
Dr Rose O’Neill, chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks, said: “Like The Beatles and the NHS, National Parks are world renowned and represent the very best of our nation.
“They are a source of wellbeing, adventure and connection with nature for millions of people. But as we celebrate their 75th anniversary, scratch the surface and a different picture emerges.
“National Parks face a host of threats: destruction of wildlife; the effects of climate change; and a growing divide when it comes to who can live, work and visit these places.
“Politicians hold the key to rescuing National Parks, but they are sitting on their hands.
“That’s why campaigners from across the country have come together to demand much-needed action at the next election to renew National Parks.
“From health and affordable housing to green transport and the economy – National Parks can be part of the solution if political leaders step up to the challenge.”
The National Parks Societies’ letter was sent to the leader of every Westminster political party with an MP in England and signatories included: CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire; The Campaign for National Parks; The Broads Society; Friends of the Lake District; North York Moors Association; Friends of the Dales; The Exmoor Society; Friends of the South Downs; Dartmoor Preservation Association and Friends of the New Forest.
A National Parks Societies spokesperson said: “In the face of climate breakdown, a nature crisis, growing inequality and a hollowing out of rural communities, National Parks can play a vital role in tackling some of the biggest challenges the UK faces.”