• Dorset National Park Team

Dorset Council Consultations

Dorset Council Consultations on:

1) Climate and Ecological Emergency, February 2020; and

2) Dorset Heathlands Framework SPD, February 2020


This note brings together the responses by the Dorset National Park Team CIC to these two consultations. Also relevant, and referred to below, are the Team’s inputs to recent consultations on the Council’s draft Plan and Economic Growth Strategy.



1) Climate and Ecological Emergency


Dorset Council are seeking ideas and suggestions on how to help tackle the climate and ecological emergency. The themes being looked at are:

- leadership and influence

- natural environment

- buildings

- waste and energy

- transport


The results from the process will be published alongside Dorset Council’s draft climate change strategy and action plan in Spring 2020, prior to public consultation.

https://news.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/2019/12/16/dorset-council-launches-call-for-ideas-to-help-tackle-climate-emergency/


Overview


The Dorset National Park Team supports the Council in its declaration of a climate and ecological emergency. The following submission suggests how a Dorset National Park would play a vital role in tackling the linked challenges this emergency presents and which the council, communities and all stakeholders face together.


Leadership and Influence:


As we enter a new decade, the urgency for action to address the climate and ecological emergency has never been more compelling. The UK Government, as host of the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Summit, has the opportunity to raise ambition and commit to policies to tackle climate change, halt biodiversity loss, put nature on a path to recovery and connect people with nature. As Sir David Attenborough and others have said, “Business as Usual” is not a viable option. A step change is widely agreed to be necessary.


A Dorset National Park should play a key part in that step change as Dorset sets about tackling a decline in our environment and biodiversity that has been going on for decades. Dorset – with its exceptional and world-class geodiversity, landscapes, biodiversity and heritage - is the outstanding candidate for National Park status. Yet Dorset’s environment and wildlife have been degraded and depleted and are under continuing pressure. Climate change makes them even more vulnerable. The Government’s election manifesto said: “We will create new National Parks … as well as making our most loved landscapes greener, happier, healthier …”


A National Park would make a vital contribution to addressing the climate and ecological emergency and should be part of Dorset’s vision for the future. It would work in close and supportive partnership with the Dorset Council, communities and others, and bring additional resources and expertise to help all of Dorset meet the linked challenges of climate change and ecological decline. It would contribute fresh thinking on the opportunities a green and more sustainable economy can offer for our communities and businesses including farmers. And a National Park would help the Dorset Council to develop and implement sustainable policies for the environment, the economy, transport, buildings including housing, energy and tourism.


Young people have expressed their view that climate change and biodiversity loss are the greatest challenges facing our planet. Dorset’s environment has been suffering serious decline for decades. Only 39% of our supposed flagship SSSIs are in a “favourable condition”, some 60% of the AONB’s area is only “moderate” or “moderate-weak” and only 10% is “improving”. Our environment is our greatest asset and the “ecosystem services” that a healthy environment can provide to Dorset and the nation are vital to health, happiness and prosperity. Yet Bournemouth University’s report “Trends in Natural Capital, Ecosystems services and Economic Development in Dorset” [2019] finds that Dorset’s natural capital, and the vital ecosystem services this provides, continue to deteriorate.


Tackling the climate and ecological emergency will require actions to be embedded in every aspect of the Council’s plan for the county and how it conducts its own affairs. If Dorset is to address convincingly and effectively these challenges, and set out a prospectus for a thriving, greener and more sustainable future, considerations of the environment, nature recovery, climate change and sustainability cannot be compartmentalised but must be “mainstreamed” through the Council’s plan and all of the Council’s policies and plans.


There is much that the Dorset Council can do to make a start in addressing the linked challenges of the climate and ecological emergency. With a National Park as a vital partner of the Dorset Council, we have a unique and timely opportunity to take action and secure a more sustainable and thriving future for our children, our communities, economy and the natural world. A National Park would bring additional government funding to help tackle Dorset’s challenges. It would invest in and grow Dorset’s natural capital and work with the Dorset Council and others to develop policies for appropriate, sustainable development (including affordable housing for young families), sustainable transport and energy, while better conserving and enhancing our unique environment.


How the county tackles the climate and ecological crisis can and must also help to address the challenges of real deprivation which face some Dorset communities, especially Weymouth & Portland, and Dorset’s shortage of genuinely affordable homes for local people. A Dorset National Park would work with councils and local people to help address these issues, strengthen economic and social wellbeing, and secure a thriving and sustainable future for our communities.


A National Park would be a key partner in helping the Dorset Council and all of Dorset to address our challenges, including the climate and ecological emergency. Through a National Park, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure a thriving, sustainable and better future. Dorset needs greater ambition and vision for our future environment and economy. With a National Park, Dorset can thrive and become a leader in the green economy. With a National Park, Dorset can realise its potential, for the benefit of our communities, economy and environment, including our young people and future generations.


The government-appointed Glover Review of Designated Landscapes recognises the exceptional quality and importance of Dorset’s environment and recommends that Dorset’s strong case for National Park status be considered by Natural England and Government Ministers. The Government, in its election manifesto, has committed to the creation of new National Parks. Dorset is widely recognised as the outstanding National Park candidate. The proposal for a Dorset National Park has cross-party support and many organisations and individuals nationally and locally support the proposal. The Dorset NP should be part of fresh thinking and a new vision for a thriving, sustainable future.


The Dorset National Park Team’s response to the Dorset Council’s recent consultation on economic growth strategy included the following:

  • As the Team’s response to consultation on the DC’s draft Strategic Plan suggested, tackling the climate and ecological emergency will require actions to be embedded in every aspect of the Council’s Plan. Investment and future economic growth will need to be sustainable. A Dorset National Park, core funded by central Government, would bring additional resources and expertise to help tackle these challenges. It would work with the Dorset Council and others to develop and implement policies for sustainable development (including creating opportunities in the green economy), housing (including truly affordable homes for local people), sustainable transport, energy and tourism while better conserving and enhancing our unique environment.

  • A National Park would work in close partnership with the Dorset Council, communities and others, to help address the deteriorating state of Dorset’s environment and the climate and ecological emergency, invest in and grow Dorset’s natural capital, as well as attract new businesses, investment and talent and stimulate economic growth.

  • Dorset’s environment and heritage are our greatest economic asset, as research for Dorset CC has established. A Dorset National Park would bring opportunities and benefits for the economy throughout Dorset, as the following summary outlines: https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/post/economic-benefits-of-a-np


Natural Environment:


A Dorset National Park would make a vital contribution to addressing the linked challenges of climate change and the deterioration of our environment and ecology. Dorset’s exceptional biodiversity, geodiversity and landscape diversity are spectacular and world-class. Along with our heritage and cultural diversity, these are the jewels in Dorset’s crown, and a vital national and well as local asset. Our responsibility is to care for this precious resource and to pass it on to future generations in at least as good a state as we inherited it.


Young people have expressed their view that climate change and biodiversity loss are the greatest challenges facing our planet. But Dorset’s environment and wildlife have been suffering serious decline for decades; they continue to be degraded and depleted and remain under serious continuing pressure. Over several decades there has been damage to habitats, major and measurable reductions in the presence of wildlife in our landscapes, and loss of species. Climate change makes them even more vulnerable. Only 39% of our supposed flagship SSSIs are in a “favourable condition”, some 60% of the AONB’s area is only “moderate” or “moderate-weak” and only 10% is “improving”. Our environment is our greatest asset and the “ecosystem services” that a healthy environment can provide to Dorset and the nation are vital to health, happiness and prosperity. Yet Bournemouth University’s report “Trends in Natural Capital, Ecosystems services and Economic Development in Dorset” [2019] finds that Dorset’s natural capital, and the vital ecosystem services this provides, continue to deteriorate. This report evidences the degradation and decline in Dorset’s environment, wildlife and natural capital, and underlines the damaging implications of this for Dorset’s businesses, future economic development, health and prosperity. Future generations will ask why we allowed this to happen and what we did to address the decline in Dorset’s natural capital.


Michael Dower, the son of John Dower whose 1945 Government report laid the foundations for our country’s system of designated landscapes and proposed a Dorset National Park, has said, “I believe that the scale of the challenge of stewardship of this great area demands the more substantial resource of funding and expertise which can be marshalled by a National Park.”


A National Park should be a central part of Dorset’s vision for the future. A National Park would help conserve and enhance Dorset’s precious but vulnerable environment and biodiversity. It would work in close and supportive partnership with the Dorset Council, communities and others, and bring additional resources and expertise, to help all of Dorset to meet the linked challenges of climate change and ecological decline. It would help the Dorset Council to develop and implement sustainable policies for the environment, the economy, transport, buildings and development including housing, energy and tourism.


A National Park would bring a new dynamism to help realise the opportunities a green and more sustainable economy can offer for our communities and businesses including farmers. It would work with Dorset farmers and land-managers and help them to optimise opportunities for “public benefit” farm funding, including for carbon capture and other vital ecosystem services through woodland and soil management, tree-planting and landscape-scale action for nature recovery. It would help farmers and land-managers (including through supportive planning policies) to improve farm viability, for example through diversification, value-adding local produce, marketing and supply chain opportunities. The South Downs National Park works successfully with its farmers and land managers to the benefit of these businesses, the environment and wildlife. The SDNP’s tailored Environmental Land Management Schemes will reinforce its supportive planning policies and help farmers to thrive while also helping nature to recover and increase the value of the area’s natural capital and ecosystem services.


As we enter a new decade, the urgency for action to address the climate and ecological emergency is clear. With a National Park as a vital partner of the Dorset Council, we have a timely opportunity to take action and secure a better, more sustainable and thriving future for our children and the natural world. The Government has said: “We will create new National Parks … as well as making our most loved landscapes greener, happier, healthier …”


For more information on the state of Dorset’s environment and how a Dorset National Park would promote and support nature recovery and help tackle climate change, see: https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/post/climate-and-environmental-emergency


Buildings:


A Dorset National Park would work in close and supportive partnership with the Dorset Council, communities and other stakeholders and help to develop and implement sustainable policies for buildings and development including housing, transport, energy, the economy, the environment and tourism. A National Park would attract new investment, jobs and skills, and contribute fresh thinking on the opportunities a green and more sustainable economy can offer for our communities and businesses. [See also the Dorset National Park Team’s response under Leadership and Influence, and Natural Environment.]


Waste and energy:


A Dorset National Park would work in close and supportive partnership with the Dorset Council, communities and other stakeholders and help to develop and implement sustainable policies for energy and waste, the economy, transport, buildings including housing and the environment. A National Park would attract new investment, jobs and skills, and contribute fresh thinking on the opportunities a green and more sustainable economy can offer for our communities and businesses. [See also the Dorset National Park Team’s response under Leadership and Influence, and Natural Environment.]


Transport:


A Dorset National Park, as a close partner with the Dorset Council, communities and others, would make a vital contribution to ensuring an effective response to the climate the ecological emergency. It would bring substantial additional resources and expertise to help develop and implement sustainable policies for transport, tourism and energy. A National Park would contribute fresh thinking on the various opportunities a green and more sustainable economy can offer for our communities and businesses.


A Dorset National Park would promote sustainable economic development including tourism and help reduce the pressures of tourism on communities, infrastructure and the environment, for example by investing in sustainable transport and thus reducing car use. By extending the tourism season all year-round through eco, cultural, heritage and dark skies [“astro”] tourism, and by helping to extend the economic benefits of tourism to communities throughout rural Dorset, a National Park would help improve the viability of Dorset’s rural bus provision and rail services. The designation of a Dorset NP would boost the business case for increased strategic investment in better rail services for Dorset.


The South Downs National Park secured over £10m for sustainable transport investment eg in more integrated rail/bus/cycle provision, cycle ways and schemes. That NP helps to ensure that local bus services continue to serve rural communities, as well as helping to sustain and renew the provision of key services such as shops, pubs and post offices in rural communities. Other National Parks have taken action to support public and shared business transport to and within their areas and hence been able to restrict car parking especially at hot spots. Some are looking at the idea of road pricing with the income being spent on improved public transport.


Some National Parks are also considering the range of sustainable transport solutions pioneered in Austria and funded by a small tax on visitor accommodation. Twenty-one “Alpine Pearls” form a unique network of villages offering green mobility. They offer car-free adventures while guaranteeing full mobility at holiday destinations. This mobility starts on the train and/or bus journey to the Alpine Pearl community. At each Pearl, shuttle services, hikers’ and ski buses, taxicab services, e-cars, bicycles and e-bikes make sure that visitors get around easily, yet without adversely affecting the environment. To complete this emphasis on environmentally friendly mobility, the Pearls offer Guest & Mobility Cards, which allow free access to local public transportation. https://www.alpine-pearls.com/en/about-us/projects


For more information, see:

- the Dorset National Park Team’s response to consultation on the Dorset Council’s Plan: https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/post/the-dorset-council-strategy

- the briefing on the climate and ecological emergency which the National Park Team provided for the Council in June 2019: https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/single-post/Climate-and-Environmental-Emergency


Dorset National Park Team, February 2020

It’s time for Dorset’s National Park



2) Dorset Heathlands Framework SPD, February 2020


Response by the Dorset National Park Team


The Dorset National Park Team welcomes the consultation by the Dorset Council and the BCP Council on the Dorset Heathlands Planning Framework SPD.

We understand that the purpose of the current brief consultation is to roll forward the SPD without modification, and that the authorities intend that a fuller review will follow later this year, in the context of Local Plan preparations. The National Park Team will be grateful to be kept informed and consulted about that review.


The Team fully supports the continuation of robust and effective protection of Dorset’s internationally important, precious and vulnerable heathland. It is vital that this protection should not be weakened or undermined in any way. The case for continuing to give the heathland the fullest protection is reinforced by the declaration of a climate and ecological emergency by both Dorset Council and the BCP Council. We therefore wish to see effective and coherent heathland protection policies, including the 400m exclusion zone, which is vital to the integrity of the heath and should be maintained and respected.


The authorities need to commit to and be seen to protect some of the last lowland heath remaining in England, accepting the profound responsibility which comes with having such landscape and habitat in their guardianship.


A National Park for Dorset. The designation of a Dorset National Park, which the Glover Review of Landscapes recommended be considered by Natural England and Ministers, would help to ensure the effective conservation and appropriate recreational use and enjoyment of Dorset’s heaths. The Government, in its manifesto, is committed to the creation of new National Parks. Dorset is the outstanding candidate for NP designation. A National Park would bring additional resources for Dorset and work in close partnership with the Dorset Council, BCP Council and other stakeholders to help ensure a thriving and sustainable future for our communities, economy and environment.


The Councils will want to take account of the following:

  1. The Dorset heaths are internationally recognised for their importance, as landscape, habitat, and for their cultural associations. For example, the heath-land landscape was immortalised by Thomas Hardy as “Egdon Heath,” and has been the inspiration for many painters including JMW Turner.

  2. Since the nineteenth century, 80% of England’s lowland heath has been lost to development, afforestation and agricultural intensification. For far too long, the English lowland heaths were under-valued. We are very fortunate that what remains of England’s rare and endangered lowland heath landscape survives largely in Dorset. English lowland heath is a very distinctive type of landscape with high scenic quality and exceptionally rich biodiversity. The lowland heath is, at the same time, a rare, fragile and vulnerable landscape. An astonishing diversity of wildlife, much of this rare and endangered, is found on the heath. The Dorset heaths include areas which have the greatest biodiversity found anywhere in Britain. The importance of Dorset’s lowland heath, and of better valuing, conserving and managing this in future, has been recognised in the award of national funding in recent years for projects including the Great Heath, Back from the Brink, and the National Trust’s Cyril Diver project.

  3. The heathlands represent an important part of Dorset’s natural capital. Dorset’s heaths should therefore play an important role in an effective response to the climate and ecological emergency, through the restoration of Dorset’s natural capital and recovery of nature, and in the provision of key ecosystem services including carbon capture, water management and the reduction of flood risks. The Dorset National Park would work in close partnership with the Dorset Council, the BCP and other stakeholders, and bring additional resources, to help develop and implement sustainable policies including for our environment and biodiversity, development, transport, energy and tourism. For more information, see: https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/single-post/Climate-and-Environmental-Emergency.

  4. The heathland area’s attraction is reflected in the designation of walks and trails. Recreational use and conservation management should go hand in hand, as is recognised increasingly by important stakeholders in the heaths - the National Trust, the RSPB and Dorset Wildlife Trust. The Dorset lowland heath’s international significance is reflected in certain landscape and habitat designations, but by no means all of Dorset’s outstanding heathland is thus designated and protected.


Dorset National Park Team, February 2020

It’s time for Dorset’s National Park