In early November the Stanage Forum are holding an open AGM to discuss the Peak District National Park Authority's (PDNPA) outline proposals for the funding and management of the North Lees Estate, which includes the iconic Stanage Edge. If you have a view on how Stanage is run now, or want to discuss how things might be done better in future, then here is your chance to be heard.
The 545 hectare North Lees Estate, which includes a large part of Stanage Edge and the surrounding moorland, has been owned by the PDNPA for around 40 years. It is public property, managed for the public benefit. But against a background of budget cuts at the National Park, concerns were raised in 2013 that the Park Authority's desire to make a financial return from the estate might compromise conservation and access.
Backed by over 20,000 signatures, the BMC's Stand Up For Stanage campaign called for the PDNPA to respect a 'Stanage Charter': that North Lees must be retained in public ownership in perpetuity, and never fragmented; that any commerical activity must not impede free public access; that the conservation of the estate's wildlife and uncluttered landscape should take priority; that any revenue raised on the estate must be reinvested there; and that any future decisions are made in consultation with key stakeholders.
In the autumn of 2013 the PDNPA voted to retain ownership and management of Stanage. However the issue of money is still unresolved. If the estate has to pay for itself, then how should its upkeep be funded? The Park Authority's proposals will be outlined at the meeting.
Possible sources of income seem limited. The National Park might for instance seek to make pay and display parking legally enforceable. But not everyone would welcome such a move. If this meant installing substantial parking infrastructure and signage then the much prized unspoilt landscape might suffer, according to the BMC's Peak Area access rep Henry Folkard.
'If you like the landscape and access arrangements at Stanage just as they currently are, then come to the meeting and say so' says Henry.
'Because if you don't then things might change.'
On the other hand, perhaps you have a bright idea about how the North Lees Estate might make money without compromising the landscape and free access so valued by climbers and walkers?
'This meeting is your chance to be heard' says Henry.
Is it a chance we can afford to miss?
- Stanage Forum Meeting: 2pm 1 November, Memorial Hall, Hathersage. Open to all, attendance free