For several years in newsletters and other publicity our local Cumbria association has used the strapline: Varied, valuable but vulnerable.
So much change is underway both nationally and locally at the moment with many important decisions to be made that the implications for the many special areas of the UK risk being ignored. Last Saturday I was at our NAEE executive meeting in Martineau Gardens, a magical “Green Lung” close to the heart of Birmingham. It’s sheltered from traffic noise and strong winds and, as recent research has shown, its trees will be filtering out much of the traffic pollution. So much there was at its peak, both the flowers and the edible items. As I left with a fruit-packed jar of blackberry jam, I glanced up at a notice underlining its need for cash to meet running costs of £250 per day; this has to come from sales of produce, donations and charities support “as we no longer receive government support.”
Back in the city centre all looked very busy and prospering. I love the buzz of our big cities. For three very busy days earlier in the week we were taking three of our young granddaughters round the museums, art galleries and cathedrals of Liverpool and riding the trains buses and ferries, plus a few shops too. So, it was with great pleasure as my train pulled out of Lancaster Station that, for the second time in the week, I could look across Morecambe Bay on to the hills and mountains that make the county of Cumbria so special. Over the years there have been many proposals for a combined tidal barrier to harness the water power and to provide quicker access to the two peninsulas in the bay, to our shipyards in Barrow and to the nuclear power plants up the west coast. It could well be economically efficient but is that the criteria by which we should judge everything? The sea close to us already has one of the World’s biggest wind farms and just a little further up the west coast we are fighting a plan for a large line of pylons from the proposed new nuclear power station to go overground, as we feel they should go underground / undersea.
Within an hour I was back home scanning our local paper and reading another saddening headline, “National Parks facing huge cuts in Government Funding”. They’ve already suffered repeated funding cuts for several years, and education officers have almost all disappeared from park centres. We’ve also noticed how many of the less-used paths are now impenetrable, how parking meters are springing up in many formerly remote spots, toilets that are closed if no volunteers from the local parish are able to care for them, and that, in spite of constant exhortation to use public transport, our County rural bus network has been decimated. Many routes have disappeared or are down to one bus a week on market days. The rural revival of 1999 with government funding to local authorities has come full circle. The shame also applies to our neighbouring parks, perhaps none more than the Peak District which has close proximity to around twenty million people in the nearby cities.
Our Country surrounds the crown jewel of the Lake District which has just received the supreme accolade status of a World Heritage status but this may bring the dilemma of even more tourists with the need for the infrastructure they expect. The UK now had a population of around 65 million. In the last twenty years I’ve watched New Zealand’s population rise from three towards five million and they are now concerned about the rapid growth of tourism especially from China. With another runway and Heathrow and the HS2 to speed travellers ever faster northward. Can any of our national gems survive? Are we wrong to think that a little change of emphasis from those in power could help?
David Fellows, NAEE Executive Member
David can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org