Step by step approach to future of North Lees estate and Stanage

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THE Peak District National Park Authority is to take carefully considered steps towards well-informed decisions on the future of its North Lees estate and Stanage Edge.

At the Audit, Resources and Performance committee on Friday March 23, members decided on a staged approach to reviewing the options for the estate.

Situated between Hathersage and Sheffield, the estate was earmarked for review in the Authority’s 2010 asset management plan in response to public spending cuts.

Christopher Pennell, chair of audit, resources and performance committee, said: “The process we have agreed means that we can begin to explore and assess a range of options for running the estate, including working in partnership with other organisations. It will give us staged opportunities to review progress before agreeing the next step.”

The Authority will look at best practice in outside conservation organisations as well as the availability of grants and support from the public.

The estate’s existing management plan will remain in place for managing biodiversity, conservation and access - including how climbing at Stanage Edge is managed. This plan was developed in 2002 with the Stanage Forum - which represents local communities, climbers, walkers, birdwatchers and other interest groups.

“As part of the review we will be looking at appropriate commercial options that will help us meet the objectives of the estate management plan,” continued Mr Pennell. “But we will never forget our responsibilities to ensure that the estate is managed for conservation and high quality access.

“We are dealing with a 30 per cent cut in our budget and we wouldn’t be doing our job properly without looking at ways in which we can reduce costs and increase income without compromising our overall objectives for the estate. We need a more cost-effective way of running the estate

“North Lees and Stanage are much-loved landscapes that form a very special environment for conservation, recreation, rare wildlife, cultural heritage and farming interests. Our goal is to protect these aspects and continue to keep local people and visitors involved in its management.”

The 524-hectare North Lees estate was purchased by the Authority in 1971 to protect its outstanding landscape and wildlife. It includes moorland, farmland, a cottage where the estate ranger lives, a campsite, car parks, a ranger base and public toilets. The iconic Stanage Edge forms the backbone of the estate. It also includes the 16th-century North Lees Hall - currently let to the Vivat Trust for holiday accommodation until 2038 - a farmhouse and cruck barn.

Three members of the public spoke at the meeting:

Mark Bosher, from Derbyshire Soaring Club and a local resident, told the committee that club members, who fly hang-gliders and paragliders, regard Stanage as “a fantastic site” and are keen to be involved in the consultation about its future management.

Jean Hodgkinson, local resident, described the estate as the Peak District National Park’s “jewel in the crown” and considered the Authority to be “the most suitable custodian of the area for public enjoyment”.

Henry Folkard, representing the British Mountaineering Council, urged the Authority to be open and transparent in its review and decision making process and to be aware of the huge public interest in Stanage.

Public consultation will take place over the summer and the committee will meet again in September to consider the first stage findings of the review.