In any National Park, land management and farming are centrally important activities, and land managers are among the key partners of the National Park Authority.
A paper by Phil Belden (recent Director of Operations at the South Downs National Park Authority) discusses how the South Downs has approached this key relationship. It notes how relevant areas of policy have been consulted on, developed and implemented to the benefit of the South Downs’ farmers and land managers, other businesses and communities, as well as the area’s environment and economy, including tourism, heritage management and recreation.
It shows (amongst other things) how:
The South Downs NP has helped its farmers secure 20% of Stewardship funding in the South East region, though the South Downs covers only 10% of the area under agreement;
Landowners with heritage tourism assets value the NP and how the NP brand presents a range of opportunities;
The South Downs Land Management Group and CLA-supported working breakfasts, workshops and other engagement have helped members contribute to NP policies and plans, and benefitted action on the ground;
Additional funding has been secured for such schemes as improved water quality, chalk grassland and woodland management, heathland conservation, sustainable transport, as well as heritage tourism.
The paper also discusses the SDNP’s approach to planning as this relates to the land-management sector, including “taking a positive and pro-active approach to sustainable development, balancing the protection of the landscape with the social and economic wellbeing of the area,” flexibility when appropriate in farming matters, the positive opportunities presented by the development of Whole Estate Plans, and looking at the feasibility of Food Enterprise Zones as a DEFRA pilot.
To all of this work, the SDNP brings its committed partnership approach, expertise and understanding.