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South Downs sets out nature recovery plan

Words: Laura Edgar
South Downs National Park - Fulking Escarpment / South Downs National Park Authority

The South Downs National Park Authority and its partners have set out a masterplan that seeks to boost nature and drive a green economic recovery from Covid-19. 

The strategy aims to create a “connected network” of green infrastructure that makes havens for wildlife, supports local economies and helps mitigate climate change. It further intends to ensure that local people benefit from a better natural environment.

The authority has identified 12 areas across the South East region of the park, primarily on the edge or beyond the National Park’s boundaries, as key areas for long-term investment in green infrastructure, such as parks, rivers and streams, roadside verges, street trees and churchyards. 

The masterplan - People and Nature Network (PANN) - was produced in partnership with organisations including local authorities across Hampshire and Sussex, the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, The Woodland Trust, English Heritage and the Environment Agency.

The authority explained that PANN ties in with the government’s 25-year environment plan and acknowledges that  healthier natural environment will bring economic benefits to the region, like reducing the financial costs of health and social care. Green infrastructure will be encouraged to be set out in emerging planning policy and national and local funding will be sought to support the masterplan.

PANN also recognises that creating a healthier natural environment will also bring economic benefits for the region, including reducing the financial burden on health and social care, increasing visitor spending and increased desirability as a location for business.

The partnership will work towards its goals through a number of avenues, including encouraging green infrastructure in emerging planning policy, seeking more local and national funding and developing more community projects that help the environment.

Andrew Lee, director of countryside policy and management for the South Downs National Park Authority, explained that the ethos behind the strategy is that nature is working invisibly, every day, to keep the environment healthy for both wildlife and people, and it provides clean water, fresh air, food to eat, and tranquil places to enjoy. 

“Yet we can never take it for granted as our natural environment is sadly under threat from climate change and global biodiversity decline, together with the fact that we’re living in one of the most crowded parts of the UK.

“Nature doesn’t recognise administrative boundaries and that’s why the People and Nature Network is such a vital piece of work – laying out our collective long-term ambition, at both a regional and national level, to promote more green infrastructure. That could be creating a wildflower meadow in an urban area, improving the greenery along a canal, laying a hedgerow or planting more street trees.

“Every bit of this interconnected green network plays its part in supporting wildlife and also our communities, whether that be through boosting the tourism economy or just being an uplifting space for people to enjoy the natural world.

“We have this amazing natural space in the national park, but its benefits don’t stop at the designation boundary. This plan aims to make space for nature in urban as well as rural environments and create links with the national park which already has over 1,000 nature conservation areas.”

Ian Phillips, chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has seen people from all areas reconnect with nature, giving many a new appreciation of how just valuable it is to our health and wellbeing. Now is the time to make the most of this renewed enthusiasm and start creating a better future for both people and nature. This is the start of that journey and together we can make a difference.”

The People and Nature Network report can be found here on the national park authority website.

Image credit | South Downs National Park Authority