A pioneering partnership is being launched to care for some of England’s most beautiful and vulnerable high ground.
The Uplands Alliance (UA) brings together for the first time practitioners, researchers and policy makers with interests in the highest areas of land. Seventy-four per cent of national parks are in the uplands, including Northumberland National Park.
Extending to 22 per cent of England, they are home to globally significant wildlife habitats and host over 50 per cent of the UK’s SSSIs – Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Storing the majority of the country’s carbon, the precious land is also the source of 70 per cent of our drinking water.
The interests of hill farmers, and others who work and care for the unique and fragile landscapes, will be represented in the group. It also extends to those researching and legislating for a sustainable future, according to UA president Lord Inglewood, of Cumbria’s Hutton-in-the-Forest.
He said: “Our goal is to develop and test new innovative approaches, to be a ‘policy lab’, which will bring about a whole range of thinking on a variety of different issues. These range from food production to timber, clean water, carbon storage, biodiversity, renewable energy and recreational opportunities.
“Uplands have significant agricultural, landscape, archaeological, recreational, cultural and natural resource value and are nationally and internationally important for biodiversity. However, the challenges can be complex and there are competing interests. By working collaboratively, we can better understand them and together find solutions that work for everyone.”
A steering group has been set up, chaired by Professor Michael Winter, co-director of the Centre for Rural Policy Research at the University of Exeter, and brings wide-ranging skills and experience from the different sectors. Professor Winter explained networks were being established to look at many issues, including sustainable upland farm business, agricultural initiatives benefitting nature, rural development programmes and restoring upland peat.
He said: “The aim is to deliver better outcomes for the uplands and get things moving as quickly as possible. Improving communications between practitioners, researchers and policy makers is paramount, along with sharing knowledge and skills. Short-term effort will be matched by more extensive work on specific issues and we want the benefits to be extensive.
“Practitioners will have greater understanding from which to base decisions, researchers should forge closer links with those who use their findings, while policy makers will have the advantage of better advice, tested and communicated in a more co-ordinated way. If we do good stuff, not only will our uplands gain, but so will all the people that rely on them in innumerable ways.”
UA will be launched during a three-day National Centre for the Uplands conference at Newton Rigg College, Penrith, Cumbria, which runs from Tuesday to Thursday, May 12 to 14.