A scheme to improve the environment and better protect the much-loved landscapes of the southwest Peak District has been promised a massive chunk of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The South West Peak Landscape Partnership, a collaboration of local and national organisations, has received the earmarked grant of £2.5m for its Landscape at a Crossroads project, which will focus on developing a better understanding of the landscape in the borderlands of Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, 'in order to enhance and protect it into the future'.
Among the gems of the area are the Roaches gritstone ridge and Axe Edge Moors where the rivers Dove, Manifold, Goyt, Dane and Wye rise. The South West Peak is also home to an internationally important breeding bird community including short-eared owl, merlin and golden plover.
In preparation for the bid, the partnership carried out a campaign called ‘Give Five Words’ to capture what was special to people about the South West Peak. One of the correspondents, Den Cartlidge, said (in rather more than five words):
'I’ve been to lots of beautiful places in the British & Irish Isles, but I think there really is something unique about the South West Peak, in terms of landscape, natural history, and culture – a genuinely special and rather mysterious quality.'
The initial phase of the project will allow local people to have a say about why the South West Peak matters, and to work with partner organisations on their existing project ideas including: helping farmers to maintain viable farm businesses whilst safeguarding and enhancing important habitats and species like the curlew; working to improve water quality in rivers and streams; field studies opportunities and rural skills apprenticeships; encouraging people to access and enjoy the countryside; protecting and restoring small heritage features; and providing volunteering opportunities.
Drew Bennellick, HLF Head of Landscape and Natural Heritage, said:
'On the eve of the National Lottery’s 20th birthday, we’re delighted to be announcing our support for the ‘South West Peak - A Landscape at a Crossroads’ project. It’s also the perfect moment to thank Lottery players for helping make possible our Landscape Partnership programme.'
'Ten years ago we developed Landscape Partnerships so that we could deliver conservation on a truly landscape scale. With so many habitats and species in decline and people becoming less and less connected to nature and the land, the programme was the first of its kind to allow conservationists to work at a cross-landscape scale. The programme has grown rapidly and is now leading the way in allowing many of our most treasured landscapes, as well as some of our most damaged, to be managed for the future in a sustainable way.'
'Engaging people as volunteers, training them as guides or helping them learn new skills has enabled local people to appreciate, value and speak up for the countryside. Our funding has led to new strategic partnerships between private, public, charitable and community bodies.'
'It has also ensured that the UK’s most precious resource, our landscape, will be protected for future generations.'
Perhaps he over states the role of the HLF in landscape conservation. Protecting things for the future is after all the responsibility of planners and politicians - and a debatable job they often do of it, too. But at least large helpings of Lottery funding can't be doing any harm.
The first stage of funding for the South West Peak project is a grant of £154,300 to help the partnership progress its plans. The remainder, which has already been set aside by the HLF, will be awarded once the partnership submits a fully developed application, provided, that is, that their final proposals fully meet the programme's criteria.
- More about the partnership and their community engagement work can be found here