Member’s Tour June 2012

Every year we take the members of the Authority on a tour of the National Park.  This may seem a bit strange.  Don’t they know the area already?  Shouldn’t they do this anyway?  The fact is, the Peak District is a big and complex place.  A member who lives, say, in the Staffordshire Moorlands may be very knowledgeable about their patch.  But they may know less about the Sheffield Moors, or the White Peak of Derbyshire.  And some of our members have particular expertise and they may not necessarily know about all aspects of our work.  But most of all, our work is always changing and evolving to new circumstances.  Change was very much the theme of this year’s tour.

Change is widespread across the public sector and we are not immune.  Our tour looked at 4 main areas where change is a strong part of our work:

  • The management of habitats in the uplands in response to climate change, demands from the urban water consumer and farming.
  • The way we provide learning to young people, especially in our new partnership with the Youth Hostels Association
  • Working with communities on neighbourhood planning
  • The way we are working hard to improve the quality and financial viability of our services to visitors.

I plan to tell the story of this through some photographs taken on the day rather than a full brief on all that was said. The bad weather when we arrived in Bradwell prevented us getting off the bus and  taking photos of Adele Metcalfe and our work on village and community planning.  but members contributed to a rich discussion here, many drawing on their own experience of the varying and effective ways that communities can plan their future and that the national park authority can help.

Bill Gordon, Estate Ranger on the North Lees Estate (in red centre right) explains to members the importance of continuity in the management of estates as complex as the North Lees Estate. Andy Farmer, Area Manager looks on (in red right). Earlier Tammy Shirley and Rhonda Pursglove of our Property Service had outlined the newer, financially sharper approach to managing the estate and the way members will be looking at its long-term future later in the year,

Bill has decades of experience of managing the North Lees site, a place which is exceptional for its conservation importance and is one of the busiest recreation sites in the National Park. Members will be looking hard at the future of this estate over the coming year. Bill’s message is that continuity of approach and excellence in what is done in land management are the main things to focus on.

In the shadow of a torrential Burbage Brook, Jane Chapman, our Environment and Economy Manager (centre right in coat) , explains the strategic context of the management of moorlands in the National Park as vital for habitat conservation, water management and recreation.

Jane Chapman explains (with Amanda Brace from the English National Park Authorities Association looking on) how a variety of partners – The Authority, RSPB, National Trust, Sheffield Wildlife Trust and the City Council are working together on the moorlands of the Sheffield area in the Sheffield Moors Partnership and the new Defra-led Nature Improvement Area. This pilot is one of 12 in England, but only one of 2 in a national park and the only upland one. Its aim is to deliver in practice the John Lawton agenda for habitats that are better managed, better connected and bigger.

Chris Dean the manager of the Moors for the Future programme explains the significance of the Peak District for moorlands and the enormous scale of the work that his collection of projects has done spending £15M restoring habitats.

The sermon on mountains: The torrential rain of recent days amply demonstrated the importance, as Chris emphasised, of the moorlands of the Peak District as places where water is managed. Work to restore moorlands has been enthusiastically backed by water companies because it reduces the colour in water supplies and new work being done by Moors for the Future is looking at reducing flooding through habitat management too in one of only 2 Making Space for Water Pilot Projects in England.

Geoff Nickolds, Deputy Chair of the Authority, explained his role in chairing the Moors for the Future Partnership. Debates and decisions in formal committees is only one small way that members contribute to the work of the Authority. Much of it is hands on with key projects such as Moors for the Future which has many staff, large budgets and a complex partnership supporting it.

Richard Campen, NPA Director of Operations (right) explains the decision the Authority took to transfer the ownership of Losehill Hall to the Youth Hostels Association in 2010. Head of the National Park Learning and Discovery Team Sarah Wilks (left) explains the new partnership with the YHA where we will be working with all of the Peak District hostels, based at Losehill Hall, to provide learmning for many thousands of young people. Alisatir Boyd (centre) YHA’s Losehill Hall Manager explains that since taking over the Hall in early 2011 YHA have invested nearly £2M and have already exceeded their targets for the number of overnight stays.

Members are often on the receiving end of difficult e-mails from the public but for Chair of Audit Resources and Performance Committee Christopher Pennell tangling with chain mail is a less usual occurrence. YHA has a hands on approach to history.

Since re-opening in February YHA Losehill Hall has hosted about 12 000 overnight guests of whom nearly 9 000 have been young people from schools and groups. The new YHA Losehill Hall is fit for the purpose of providing such young people’s experiences, is a much lower cost operation than previously and the site is a huge improvement over the former YHA Castleton.

NPA Area Manager Andy Farmer who organised the tour, ponders the tools of the trade for a busy NPA middle manager faced with many challenges.

Head of Field Services Sean Prendergast leading from the front and ever upwards shows the members the newly refurbished Bakewell Visitor Centre. All of our visitor-facing services have been under pressure to perform better financially to overcome cuts in our grant. Under Sean’s leadership the Visitor Services teams have made great progress already in delivering the goods. For example, the new stairway in the Bakewell Centre has created a more welcoming entry to the mezzanine gallery, much increasing space for sales and activities.

Sean Prendergast explains the philosophy behind the NPA visitor centres. They are the front line of our work to encourage people to understand and be inspired by the National Park and what makes it special. But they are also places where we trade in products relevant to that and where, in partnership with the local councils, directly provide services to tourists and visitors.

Sean Prendergast explains how one new initiative will be to use the space in the upper gallery at Bakewell to showcase the best of Peak District Landscape Photography. Two of the best local photographers Karen Frenkel (right in blue) and Ian Daisley (out of shot) brought along some of their work to illustrate the calibre of what will be on offer.

As ever, a large number of staff contributed to this successful day but Di Walmsley of our Democratic Services Team and Andy Farmer our Area Manager for the South of the National Park pulled the event together really well so thanks to them in particular for a good and informative day.