Future of Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at a crossroads

A movement among the communities of the Dales is needed to help protect it's treasured landscapes, as vital sources of funding draw to a close.

The conference covered the future challenges protecting areas such as the Nidderdale AONB
The conference covered the future challenges protecting areas such as the Nidderdale AONB

Following a meeting of experts at the Landscape Matters Conference in Nidderdale earlier this month it was highlighted that funding for schemes, such as the Heritage Lottery funded Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership, will end this year.

It is difficult situation for organisations, with the uncertainty around farming post-Brexit, rural isolation and still ensuring opportunities are created for young people to take part in the rural economy.

Paul Burgees, Manager of Nidderdale AONB said: The Landscape Matters conference shared crucial learning from the four year landscape partnership scheme.

Julian Glover, Sarah Kettlewell and Paul Burgees

"These findings could have national significance for the future of landscape conservation, but moving this work forward is uncertain as we’ve relied heavily on the Heritage Lottery to date.”

Commissioner for the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, Professor David Hill CBE, who chaired the conference said, ‘change is coming in a major way,’ with a need to shift from grants and subsidies to a ‘restoration economy.’

He suggested businesses undertaking major development projects put money towards a fund, dedicated to 'environmental, conservation and biodiversity.'

It was also suggested that landowners and farmers could look to additional business opportunities, with traditional building, drystone walling and hay meadows.

Julian Glover, who was commissioned by the government to review how England's protected landscapes will be fit for the future, also attended the conference and pointed to the work done by landowners, farmers and volunteers.

He said: "People from all over the world come to Yorkshire to enjoy the stunning scenery but it’s important to remember that without jobs and homes for local people we won’t be able to keep our countryside alive for the future.”

Thanks to the work of the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership school children have been trained in heritage skills, farmers helped to increase biodiversity on their land, and conservation work carried out on flagship heritage sites.

To see this kind of work continue will require the support of the community, says Louise Brown, Scheme Manager for the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership.

She said: "The key is engaging people. People are at the heart of this work, and we need to build a movement of people to ensure the AONB thrives. Providing these opportunities needs long-term structures in place.”

Despite the end of the funding there is optimism that residents will continue to back work which helps protect the countryside.

Mr Burgees said: "The 25 year environment plan and Julian Glover’s review are all positive steps to look at longer term strategies. Despite the challenges and changes ahead, there’s enormous energy and a hunger from people to engage in and safeguard our countryside.”