To celebrate the Peak District National Park’s 70th anniversary, Macclesfield MP, David Rutley, joined Peak District National Park Authority chief executive, Sarah Fowler, to discuss a range of key issues and future priorities.
The UK’s first national park – formally designated in 1951, the 555 square miles of protected landscape covers much of the eastern side of the Macclesfield constituency and have been a magnet for thousands of visitors during the pandemic, as people have sought a ‘green recovery’ from the impacts of coronavirus.
As well as understanding the challenges and experiences of managing the area over the last year, David was keen to learn more about the opportunities for farmers available under the Government’s new Farming in Protected Landscapes scheme.
The recently launched programme will provide grants through the National Park Authority for farmers to make improvements to the natural environment, cultural heritage and public access on their land – the next step in the Government’s landmark plans for a renewed agriculture sector.
The one-off projects can allow farmers and land managers to undertake activities as varied as improving habitat and biodiversity, connectivity, providing opportunities for people to discover and understand the landscape, support sustainable farm businesses and undertake work to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Climate change remained a topic of conversation as Sarah Fowler shared the National Park’s ambitions for improved sustainable transport and rethinking how visitors travel from neighbouring towns and cities, such as Macclesfield, into and around the National Park.
The National Park is already exploring ‘gateway’ and visitor hub approaches to support visitors travelling into the Peak District via bus, cycle and electric car, and much of the National Park Authority’s own fleet of vehicles has stepped away from traditional fuel sources to electric vehicles. A seasonal bus service pilot programme in the popular tourist area of the Hope Valley has also been reinstated for 2021 following a hiatus last year due to coronavirus restrictions.
Sarah Fowler said, “I’m delighted David was able to join me for our socially-distanced walk in the wonderful surroundings of Macclesfield Forest to hear about how the Peak District National Park continues to be a truly ‘living landscape’ where farming, nature and a green recovery from Covid-19 go hand-in-hand every day.
“We remain almost unique among the national parks family in offering so much to so many people within our numerous neighbouring towns and cities – including Macclesfield. But it’s also crucial we recognise that this precious resource comes with a need for respect and responsibility.
“It’s clear that David shares our ambitions for sustainable transport and travel, and recognises the potential of the Government’s new support for farmers, and together I hope the Peak District National Park will continue to be a beacon for the very best of the UK’s protected landscapes.”
After the meeting, David said, “I was pleased to be able to join Sarah in celebrating the 70th anniversary of this amazing National Park. I fell in love with it as a teenager walking the Pennine Way and, like many local residents, I still cherish this unique protected landscape. Continuing to work proactively with local farmers and landowners and establishing new sustainable transport options will be vital in protecting it for decades to come.”