Friday, 29 March 2013

Better Outcomes on Upland Commons

Photo: National Centre for the Uplands
I was pleased to have been invited to support a new initiative covering Upland Commons, that has been established following concerns raised by HRH The Prince of Wales.

The recently established National Centre for the Uplands, which is based at Newton Rigg College in Penrith, has established a partnership of organisations to provide input to the work.  The main focus of the initiative will be to establish how best to combine the many and various interests in upland commons. The work will  include a consideration of: the practical and business needs of farmers (for example in sheep stocking levels), improvements to water retention and quality, maintenance of the cultural landscape and how to accommodate public access.

I was present at a launch meeting in Sedbergh, yesterday, that Prince Charles attended, and there was a good discussion amongst the organisations represented at the meeting about how the initiative can best achieve its objectives.

This work plays very much to The Heather Trust's agenda of seeking to develop cross-sector consensus to improve the management of moorland and upland areas, while embracing the views of a large range of organisations that have potentially conflicting requirements. However, as we have found in many other projects, to allow progress to be made all views must be respected and areas of agreement identified.  I am sure we will find that it will be possible to reach agreement on about 90% of the issues, but it will be important not to let the remaining 10% derail progress.

The initiative will be considering case studies from a range of upland commons across England looking for a range of aspirations, circumstances, problems and existing progress. I think it will be interesting to look at places where partnership working has been established, and compare this with areas where this has yet to be achieved. The work I co-ordinated for Scotland's Moorland Forum for the Upland Solutions project has similarities and it is possible that the report from this work, which was published in June 2011, will be considered as part of this initiative.  I think the approach of identifying barriers to progress could be a relevant approach for the case studies.

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