Love our landscapes? Get involved with the BMC grassroots

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 19/01/2015
Ullswater: a typical Lake District landscape. Photo: Shutterstock / Drew Rawcliffe

Worried about windfarms? Bothered by building? Fed up with fracking? Get along to your local BMC meeting and start a debate.

For many of us, landscapes are at the heart of what we enjoy in the outdoors. Think of the contrast of bucolic valleys and rugged fells in the Lake District; the wide-open expanses of the Pennine moors; the ridges and relics of Snowdonia; the purple-painted hills and patchwork dales of the Peak District.

We may go into these places to do different things, but the way the flora, fauna, history and cultural texture all knit together is undeniably crucial to our reason for being there. The thought of climbing, walking or kayaking on an industrial estate just doesn’t have the same appeal.

Yet these landscapes are not guaranteed. Even with the highest levels of legal protection, they can still face developments that would have a huge impact on their character. For example, a proposal to build the world’s largest potash mine in the North York Moors is currently in the planning system, while fracking companies have eyed up the South Downs for drilling, though so far unsuccessfully.

Fun might be the name of the game, but infrastructure to support it can also prove to be contentious. A proposal for a zipwire above Glenridding in Patterdale was recently dropped after overwhelming local opposition, but the boss of the Lake District National Park has said he is still keen on the building of more ‘adventure’ infrastructure, and forging more commercial links to plug gaps in revenue.

Recent decades have seen a growing number of hill tracks for grouse shooting in the North Pennines, to the anger of some walkers.

Barely a month goes by without a controversial wind farm proposal in Scotland, but wind energy remains a contentious issue south of the border too. Countryside campaigners like the Open Spaces Society were relieved earlier this year when a plan to build a wind farm close to the borders of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks was dropped.

Pressure for more housing is also having an impact. Last year, a proposed relaxation of the laws surrounding developing disused buildings was eventually dropped after widespread opposition. The Campaign to Protect Rural England warns that badly planned developments are increasingly eating up the countryside.

Of course, in this country there is no such thing as a ‘wild’ landscape, untouched by human hand, but landscapes made by people can still have special qualities, cultural characteristics and wildlife that merit protection.

The challenge is how to balance it all. Everyone has different views on what constitutes a landscape’s most important quality, and how far that quality can be compromised or co-exist with other aspects. There is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Landscape Charter

This is why the BMC launched its Landscape Charter. The document sets out our role and responsibility in campaigning to protect landscapes from developments that may damage their character, or detract from their recreational and amenity value.

It sets out a framework for dealing with threats on a case-by-case basis through the BMC’s local area structure, but with greater support and information from the BMC national access team.

To support the charter, we have recently published two sets of guidance notes to help ensure our members and local groups have all the tools and information necessary to object to developments in their area that pose the greatest impact.

The guidance notes, ‘Energy & Infrastructure’ and ‘Minerals & Planning’, each contain an analysis of the factors that have led to an increase in pressure on our wild and valued places, an outline of the current planning policy, and principles of when and how the BMC should influence policy or drive for change.

Get involved
The BMC want to see more of our members get involved at the local level.  Many of the developments that potentially pose a threat to our treasured landscapes, like wind farms, split the opinion of our membership.

We therefore want to encourage more open and detailed discussion of potential landscape issues at the local level.  The guidance notes are detailed but are designed to give you the background information and tools you might need in order to instigate local opposition. 

The charter and guidance notes don’t prescribe whether the BMC is ‘for’ or ‘against’ a certain development or activity; instead, it gives BMC members information about how to go about voicing their concerns through their local BMC area. 

How to raise an issue

  • We don’t always hear of local issues which might affect valued landscapes.  Share details of planning applications by emailing them to landscapes@thebmc.co.uk
  • Go along to your local BMC area meeting and raise the issue there.  If the majority of people at the meeting want to take it forward, the BMC will enable your local area to take action directly.  We want to encourage more people to get involved in area meetings, raise issues and work effectively as a local group.

Download the BMC Guidance note on Energy & Infrastructure.
Download the BMC Guidance note on Minerals & Quarrying.
Download the BMC Landscape Charter.

Government Action
The BMC has also joined forces with a number of leading outdoor organisations to produce a shared vision of why we must treasure our landscapes and how Government can help.  Details of this will be launched on Tuesday 20th January.



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