A Diverse Working and Cherished Landscape
A resilient Peak District where the unique beauty of its working landscapes, its wildlife and environment, its tranquillity, cultural heritage and the communities within it, continue to be understood and valued nationally for their diversity and richness.
The Peak District is widely renowned for its iconic beauty. As a cultural landscape, it is the result of an ever-changing relationship between people and the natural environment. Its character has been influenced by thousands of years of human intervention and management. No element of the national park landscape is untouched by past or present human activity. However, with more people, new technologies and changing lifestyles, our capacity to change the environment, and the appearance of the landscape, is much greater now than for any previous generation. Consequentially our collective responsibility for being aware of our impacts and for making choices to manage change within the national park is also much greater.
The conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area is a primary purpose , and the reason for which the Peak District National Park was designated as being special and worthy of protection. It is essential that this purpose remains the guiding principle in achieving the aims of this plan, and that it is fully acknowledged in all partnerships forged with the long term aim of securing positive management solutions of this precious national asset.
The Peak District has a rich diversity of wildlife, heavily influenced by past activities and land use. However, the more recent rapid pace of change has led to the loss, fragmentation or decline of many habitats and species, as well as the introduction of species new to the area. Our aim is not to preserve the countryside, but rather to manage change. Our overall aim is to ensure that the Peak District sustains diverse and distinctive habitats and species so that we can hand on a landscape rich in wildlife and cultural assets, and with intact functional natural systems, to future generations.
Healthy soils are vital to wildlife and natural systems. The stability and fertility of our soils need to be maintained to ensure that erosion and compaction are minimised and they can support diverse vegetation and accumulate organic matter as a carbon store. It is also important to protect rivers and streams within the Peak District, not only because they are special habitats for wildlife, but also because they provide clean water for many homes and businesses within and beyond the national park.
The challenge in achieving our vision is to ensure that landscape in all its elements continues to be strengthened through targeted action. We need to continue doing this on a broad scale, looking at whole landscapes as well as specific sites. These approaches would be in line with the "better, bigger and more joined-up" recommendations of the "Think Big" joint statement for ecological recovery in protected landscapes. These actions include improving the quality and size of current wildlife sites and other environmental features, creating new features which will be valued in the future and enhancing connections between both existing and newly created sites.
We also need to consider wildlife and landscape conservation gain alongside other public benefits, such as clean water and climate regulation. These benefits are often referred to as ecosystems services. The UK National Ecosystem Assessment recognised that a healthy, properly functioning natural environment is the foundation of sustained economic growth, prospering communities and personal wellbeing, but that its constituent ecosystems are consistently undervalued in conventional socio-economic analyses and decision making. With increasing demands and pressures on the services provided by natural systems, choices made now will have consequences far into the future.
Encouraging land management systems and practices that deliver for a wide range of national park outcomes across all the management plan themes is key to realising our vision. This will rely on working across different types of organisations such as farming and land management groups, the third sector and public sector organisations. This may mean encouraging land management systems that recognise a broader range of services and benefits.
Heritage assets, such as historic buildings and archaeological remains, are an irreplaceable resource. The continued existence of many of the Peak District’s cultural heritage assets is the result of the beneficial practices of land owners, communities and land managers, with only around 5% having statutory protection. Land owners and communities need to continue to work with other stakeholders to raise awareness of what is special about the national park landscape.
Our approach to managing the landscape must include how we plan and respond to climate change. The health of the natural environment is closely linked to our own health as a nation. We must find ways of managing our impacts on the natural environment to promote the health and wellbeing of people now and into the future.