A public consultation is currently running to gather views on the future management of the North Lees Estate which contains a large section of the iconic Stanage Edge. The BMC is responding to this consultation but we are encouraging individual climbers and walkers who are passionate about this landscape to respond too. We have written this article to give some background and context for those who are not familiar with the situation the estate finds itself in.
The Peak District National Park Authority has owned and managed the North Lees Estate since the early 1970’s when the estate was all but gifted to the Authority by General Sir Hugh Beach on the understanding that public access for recreation would be maintained forever. Over the last fifteen years, with the Authority’s funding declining, the future of the Estate has repeatedly been in question.
This ongoing uncertainty resulted in our Stand up for Stanage campaign in 2013. Since then dialogue between the BMC and the Authority has been good but the long-term vision still remains unclear.
As part of the Stand up for Stanage campaign, the BMC put together a charter for the future management of the North Lees Estate, regardless of who owned or managed it. The nine points of the charter – which are as relevant today as they were in 2013 – are:
This publicly-owned estate must be retained forever for everyone. It should never be fragmented.
North Lees Estate is on Open Access Land. Any commercial enterprise must not impede the spirit of access for all.
Key stakeholders – recreational users and the local community – must be consulted before decisions are made. There must be transparency in decision-making.
Caring for conservation, wildlife and landscape is paramount. There need be no conflict between this, adventure activity and quiet enjoyment.
People value Stanage as a wild area kept free from intrusive developments. This must be safeguarded.
The cultural and archaeological heritage of Stanage must be preserved.
Any revenue raised from the estate should be reinvested in the landscape.
Shooting rights should not be exercised.
The local economy relies on preservation of these values and open access.
In the context of the current 2020 consultation, the BMC is grateful that the Authority has taken an options appraisal and consultation approach. However, the full options appraisal has not been released to the public at this time and we do have a number of concerns about the consultation:
The consultation unfortunately doesn’t consider the wider context of the whole estate, omitting key elements such as farmland, woodland and engagement opportunities. The text suggests the moorland and crags are included in the consultation but they are never mentioned in the management options. This fragmented approach does not reflect the nature of the estate which needs fully integrated approach for effective management.
The consultation pools ideas into three options, which seem unnecessarily restrictive. Depending on your perspective there could be good and bad elements within each option making it hard to pick one without accepting some undesirable elements. A better approach would be to ask for views on the different options for each element being considered.
Without projected costs and revenues for each of the options it is impossible to make an informed comparison on a financial basis. There is no consideration for wider benefits such as carbon capture, water retention, public health and wellbeing etc or the costs and benefits associated with them.
There is little information on where any funds might be coming from, other than potential expansion of parking charges. Given the current situation, where parking on the verges is both perfectly legal and beyond the Authority’s control, ‘increasing effort to promote responsible behaviour’ will not solve the ongoing parking issues, which would only be exacerbated by any such expansion.
The future of the campsite and who it is for needs to be discussed in more detail. The issue of campervans (which are a rapidly growing sector using the estate) needs considering as part of a joined-up approach across camping and parking.
The Cruck Barn could be an excellent opportunity to provide a community and educational facility and promote stewardship of the estate – something that is not offered at all on the estate currently. The report does not currently consider alternative funding options (eg grant funding) for its restoration and use.
Whilst this is only the first stage in a longer consultation, we feel that it is important that these points are made to the Authority from the outset. The nearby Eastern Moors Partnership – a collaboration between the National Trust and RSPB on the Eastern Moors estate (which includes popular crags such as Froggatt and Curbar), provides a clear contrast with the North Lees Estate. The partnership has willingly invested in their estate because of its value to them in delivering their wider objectives around recreation, involvement and sustainability.
A similar approach is needed at North Lees to ensure a bright future for this iconic landscape – but it can’t happen without a joined up, creative and smart approach across all aspects of the site. The current online consultation does not allow such an approach to be considered and the Authority needs public input to steer their decision making in the right direction. This initial consultation gives us all an opportunity to be part of that and helps ensure the North Lees Estate is in a strong position for the future, welcoming to all for responsible recreation and providing good quality habitat for wildlife.
Now is the time to make your voice heard. If you are passionate about Stanage, please make your thoughts known through the public consultation before the 4th March 2020 (a new date, extended by two weeks following requests by BMC, Friends of the Peak and others).
If you don’t feel any of the three options presented are adequate, you can send comments rather than answer the questionnaire by emailing email@example.com
We want to say a big thanks to every BMC member who continues to support us through the Coronavirus crisis.
From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t do it without you.
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