A precious but overlooked landscape straddling the Yorkshire-Lancashire border has huge potential to benefit society and the environment if it is “prime pumped” with central government funds, according to one of its chief guardians.
The South Pennines Park, which includes large swathes of West Yorkshire, is not designated as a protected landscape and so does not receive central government funding.
Instead, the largely moorland landscape is managed by private company Pennine Prospects with its partners who believe the area has a key role to play in increasing access to the countryside, boosting biodiversity and storing carbon from the atmosphere.
Its leaders believe the area can attract new investment under the Government’s proposed “public money for public goods” policy which has been mooted as a way of rewarding environmentally sustainable land management post-Brexit.
Their convictions have been strengthened by the Glover Review of protected landscapes. Commissioned by the Government and published this month, it advocates the biggest shake-up to how England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are run since they were founded 70 years ago.
The independent review recommends new powers, more funding and a new national mission to reverse “decades of environmental decline”, while going on to praise the “impressive” work to bring the South Pennines together as a park.
It also calls for a “wider range of non-designated systems of landscape protection” and as part of one such innovative approach, the South Pennines should enjoy greater support from its neighbouring National Parks, the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District.
Helen Noble, chief executive of Pennine Prospects, said she hoped the recognition would lead to government investment.
“We are not asking fundamentally for money, but public money for public benefits and greater recognition and respect for the area,” she said. “What we could do with is a real prime pumping of money from government that provides long-term support.
“We’ve had massive support from local authorities but their resources are limited and under constant strain.”
She said the aim was not to establish a new National Park but a new “experimental” approach to landscape management.
Miss Noble, who described the South Pennines as an “absolutely stunning” patchwork of moorland and gritty industrial heritage, said: “We’ve had 70 years of protected landscapes and we think there is another way we can work alongside these protected landscapes. We want to be the most accessible park in the country, bringing people and conservation together to drive sustainable benefit for all.”
To build upon the Glover Review’s recognition, Pennine Prospects is looking at launching a campaign next year to raise the profile of the South Pennines Park further.
Some 500,000 people live in the South Pennines Park but it can have far wider benefits, Helen Noble said.
More than 8m people live within a 30-minute journey of the South Pennines. It is crossed by four motorways, including the M62 linking it with Bradford, Leeds and Manchester and has the highest density of public rights of way in the country.
Yet the landscape is currently overlooked, according to Miss Noble, who said: “We are surrounded by four protected landscapes – the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District, Nidderdale and the Forest of Bowland –and people don’t see the gem that sits in the middle.”