After a period of uncertainty the future of the Roaches has been settled. The Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) has been selected by the Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA) to take on a 125-year lease of the estate.
The 395-hectare (975-acres) estate in Staffordshire features the iconic rock skyline of the Roaches and Hen Cloud. Its moorland and distinctive ridges are hugely popular with walkers and climbers.
The land is protected by law for its wildlife and landscape value. It is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the farmland is subject to a sensitive area agreement.
As reported on UKC/UKH last week, three organisations put in bids for the estate, which is part of the PDNPA's rolling programme of transferring properties to 'like-minded' bodies in the face of 28.5% budget cuts from 2010 to 2015. The other bidders were the Land Trust and the National Trust.
Christopher Pennell, chair of the PDNPA's audit, resources and performance committee which made the decision, said:
'All three bids were strong but after careful consideration we decided that Staffordshire Wildlife Trust had put in the best tender against the Authority's demanding criteria and had demonstrated the most local support for taking on the lease.'
'We evaluated all the bids to see if they were financially viable and to assess what contribution they would make, particularly the way their work would help achieve national park purposes by enabling people to enjoy and learn about this special area.'
'We believe the wildlife trust provides the best future for the Roaches, with the additional resources it brings, to conserve its wildlife, heritage and landscape, ensure open access, increase understanding of its special qualities, and look after its farmland to high conservation standards.'
The estate also includes a car park at Gradbach and Rockhall Cottage, also known as the Don Whillans Memorial hut, a unique dwelling built into the rock which is currently let to the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) for overnight stays. The BMC's interests as tenants will be protected in the new agreement to be negotiated with SWT.
The PDNPA took over the site in poor condition in 1980 to protect it for wildlife and public access. Since then it has improved the area for wildlife and flora, worked with local people and interest groups and managed the estate to balance intense recreational pressures with environmental concerns.
SWT will look after the estate and work in partnership with a range of groups and organisations including the PDNPA, the BMC and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
The organisation plans to:
- continue to look after the estate's wildlife and cultural heritage
- work to enhance the estate's biodiversity
- continue to improve access and footpaths
- encourage more involvement from local people and communities
SWT is expected to begin its 125-year lease period in spring 2013 once detailed negotiations have been completed and legal agreements signed. These will ensure public access to the estate and require them to continue the restoration and conservation of habitats. Shooting rights have been specifically excluded from the lease and are retained by the PDNPA.
The Authority retains its freehold interest in the estate and promises to 'work with its new tenant to ensure the highest standards of care of the Roaches'.
It remains to be seen whether walkers and climbers will notice any difference on the ground once the Roaches' new management take over.