Mental health benefit of national parks – nearly £5 TRILLION

That doesn’t seem to matter to our TiggerTory councillors who prefer to keep their tight personal hold over their planners and their cordial relationship with developers rather than thinking about the benefits of a Jurassic Nationsl Park on residents and visitors. Curious that.

“You can’t put a price on nature. You can’t quantify the uplifting effects of a walk in the Peak District or the way your soul soars at the sight of a stormy Cornish cliff.

Except, it turns out you can: it’s worth almost £5 trillion a year. Economists have calculated the mental health benefits of the world’s national parks, and concluded that on this measure alone they provide services amounting to a significant proportion of global GDP. And that is before you consider all the other environmental services they offer.

From the smooth cliffs of Yosemite to the jagged glaciers of Chamonix to the wild fenland of East Anglia, protected spaces improve our mood, reduce our work absences and keep us well. By quantifying the magnitude of this effect in Australia then using the tools of health economics to place a monetary value on it, researchers were able to extrapolate what they called a “conservative” global estimate of £4.67 trillion.

“Nature exposure improves human mental health and wellbeing,” the team from Griffith University, Australia, wrote. “Poor mental health imposes major costs on human economies. Therefore, parks have an additional economic value through the mental health of visitors.”

As unromantic as it sounds, economists believe that until nature has a value on a balance sheet it can be depleted and exploited without penalty. In recent years researchers have looked to calculate the value of the natural world in, for instance, flood protection, pollination and climate control.

The analysis, published in the journal Nature Communications, extended this further to consider mental health. The researchers looked at the improvement in wellbeing in 20,000 Australians that was attributable to visiting national parks, then translated this into quality adjusted life years, which is a measure of how easily people can live their lives. Finally, they extended the calculation to the world.

Dieter Helm, a University of Oxford economist who was appointed by the government to value Britain’s “natural capital”, has said in the past that figures such as these are by necessity imprecise, but not considering them in natural accounts is “precisely wrong”. He welcomed the new research.

“This is another bit in the mounting pile of evidence highlighting the huge health benefits, both mental and physical, from nature,” he said. There are great economic gains from investing in natural capital . . . It should be a major priority for the Treasury. It is not just concrete infrastructure that matters: green infrastructure has some of the highest returns.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

Are homes in National Parks REALLY more expensive than in East Devon?

Owl is informed that a correspondent carried out some research on house prices yesterday, using Rightmove and Zoopla, because they thought – is the old chestnut that housing in national parks ismore expensive – or do the Tories et al use it just an excuse to do nothing?

It turns out, Cranbrook is already on a par with 2 bed terrace house prices within Dartmoor national park. In East Devon, Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth prices are higher, but maybe they attract a premium already as coastal locations – the premium is said to be about an extra 10%?

Hopefully, this should mean that prices will not increase dramatically in this area if we were to gain national park status…

Over to you those councillors who want to keep a tight hold on planning and a very loose hold on developers …

Jurrasic Park: a Halloween scary story

A scare story fit for Halloween. So scary that Owl is hooting with laughter.

 

Here is Owl’s dissection of the substance of the scare story recently spun by EDDC ex-Tory Councillor (and ex-leader) Ian Thomas, previously posted here:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/10/22/eddc-ex-tory-councillor-doesnt-like-the-idea-of-a-jurassic-national-park/

Whilst he may now claim to be “Independent” the “Project Fear” he spreads is the established view of the previous Tory Council (and many in the current council).

It’s all about the proposal to create a new National Park by combining the East Devon and Dorset AONBs.

This proposal is not new. Like the creation of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site before it, a considered and reasoned case has been building for a number of years now.

The bit that SCARES Cllr. Ian Thomas (and others in the council) is that, despite EDDC attempts to pour cold water on the idea in the past, it has now been given endorsement by the Glover Review. (The Glover Review of Designated Landscapes was commissioned by Michael Gove to report in the 70th anniversary year of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act).

It calls for National Parks and AONBs to have a clear national mission to reverse environmental decline and specifically calls for the creation of two new National Parks and a National Forest – one such park being the area of the Devon and Dorset AONB/World Heritage site.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/833726/landscapes-review-final-report.pdf

Cllr. Ian Thomas’ stated FEAR is that house prices in East Devon could rise ‘considerably’ if proposals for a new ‘Jurassic’ national park’ covering East Devon and Dorset are successful (when did prices last fall,in the recession)?

The REAL FEAR, however, is, Owl thinks, loss of power, particularly the power of development. As Ed Freeman (Service Lead Planning) put it in the penultimate paragraph of his review of Glover Report for Cllr. Susie Bond’s Strategic Planning Committee:

“….there may also be felt to be concerns around loss of power by this authority to another body.”

https://democracy.eastdevon.gov.uk/documents/s7143/4Protected%20Landscape%20Report.pdf

It is interesting that Dorset has no such worries and has enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

How fitting then at Halloween that Owl should do the scary thing and examine the FACTS!

In terms of protective policies, both National Parks and AONBs have identical aims. These are to “conserve and enhance natural beauty”. (National Parks have the further responsibility to conserve and enhance “wildlife and cultural heritage” as well.) National Parks also have a duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within their park (note – communities not just developers). The Glover review proposes that in respect of this duty, National Parks should go further and “respond proactively to local housing needs”.

So where is the scare?

Could it be that under past EDDC regimes AONB responsibilities to “protect and enhance” the area have simply been ignored, something that might be harder to do under different management and wider scrutiny?

If this is the case, then EDDC is in for a REAL SHOCK – a LOOK BEHIND YOU moment – because the Glover Review also proposes that both AONBs and National Parks should be staffed by a shared National Landscape Service and that AONBs should be given greater status in the planning system. AONBs should become statutory consultees, and should be supported to work towards local plans for their areas, prepared in conjunction with local authorities. For larger AONBs such as East Devon (specifically mentioned), this plan should have statutory status in place of local authority plans. So even if the National Park idea doesn’t get off the ground immediately, the cavalier approach EDDC has adopted in the past to its AONB will have to change if the Glover Report is taken up.

We don’t know what the next government might make of the Glover Review but, whatever political persuasionit has, we can safely assume it will look for ways of demonstrating its Environmental Protection credentials. Not pushing forward with Glover would be an obvious own goal.

There are many positive reasons to embrace the proposal to create a new National Park by combining the East Devon and Dorset AONBs with the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Here are four in addition to the proactive management of local housing needs mentioned above.

1. Wildlife

East Devon and Dorset AONBs have distinctive and valuable ecologies which are important on a national scale. The East Devon Pebblebed Heaths, which forms 5% of the East Devon AONB is one of the largest areas of lowland dry heaths in England and has European designation. Consolidation of these two AONBs within a new National Park would increase the biodiversity of the environment creating a continuous wildlife corridor nearly 70 miles long.

2. Farming Culture and impact on Heritage Landscape

In the past, only the larger landlords like CDE had the management structure and financial stability to promote landscape enhancement projects within the AONB. However, subsidies based on acreage are going to be changed to supporting specific environmental enhancements, distributed more widely. Depending on how it is managed this could make significant changes to protected landscapes. For instance, there could be haphazard re-wilding on a considerable scale. AONBs in the future will need to be more involved and supportive of the independent sector of farming if the Landscape is to be conserved and enhanced, thus becoming more like National Parks.

3. Tourism and Economic benefits

National Parks promote understanding and enjoyment of their area’s special qualities by the public. A clear identity as a National Park would bring an economic boost to East Devon. The South Downs NP has attracted over £100M in core support and project funding since 2011 and it is reasonable to expect an East Devon and Dorset NP to attract a similar level of funding. On a smaller scale, experience from the Pebblebed Heaths are that funds and grants become more readily available with higher environmental designations, in this case SSSI, SPA and SAC.

4. Recreation and Well-being for an ageing and growing population

Encouraging Recreation is already a National Park priority. Improving public enjoyment would go hand in hand with promoting activities to improve health and well-being. Improving these will become an overriding priority in our area which is not only set to grow and age but already has more than 30% of the population aged 65 or older. It will become even more necessary if Cllr. Phillip Skinners dream of creating a North West Quadrant of linked villages to support immigration of 12,000 is realised.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/east-devon-could-getting-network-3454612

A confidant and forward-looking EDDC would now seek to form a joint liaison committee to work with the East Devon and Dorset National Park Team so as to get a seat at the table and maximise the opportunities, rather than continue to sulk in its (developer built?) kennel.

Are you scared now?

EDDC response to Jurassic National Park: sit back and do nothing

“Resolve to await the Governments response to the recommendations; and note that the Chilterns, the Cotswolds and the Dorset and East Devon AONBs are potential candidates for future designation as National Parks.”

https://democracy.eastdevon.gov.uk//documents/s7143/4Protected%20Landscape%20Report.pdf

Western Morning News on Jurassic National Park

Here in East Devon there is a serious dilemma: officers and former majority party councillors (many of whom kept their seats at the most recent election) refused to back a Jurassic National Park, as they did not want planning and dealing with developers taken away from them. So, the new council has to make a decision: leave this to officers to push for the status quo and change nothing or back the report.

Councillor Jung, who holds the Environment portfolio, and who left East Devon Alliance to accept the post from the Independent Group, now has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He did sterling work protecting Woodbury from the encroachment of the Carter family – can he persuade his new colleagues to back him? Presuming he does back it …

“Landscape study calls for a new national park

The Westcountry should have a new national park, alongside Dartmoor and Exmoor, a review of Britain’s landscapes proposes.

Two existing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Dorset and East Devon would be combined into the new park, covering not only the famous Jurassic Coast, but inland landscape treasures such as the hill forts of Dorset and East Devon.

The campaign group behind the proposal believes it would be a shot in the arm for the area’s economy and for local people.

The proposal is part of the Landscapes Review led by Julian Glover. It calls for the biggest shakeup of the running of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty since they were founded 70 years ago.

The review says the governing of national parks is top-heavy, with too little diversity or turnover of board members.

It also makes recommendations to introduce more innovative, enterprising ways to generate funds, in addition to further government funding.

Among the suggestions being put to ministers is a new National Landscapes Service to act as a unified body for England’s 44 national landscapes, including 10 National Parks and 34 AONBs.

A 1,000-strong ranger service would be the “friendly face” of national parks and help to engage schools and communities.

Every school pupil should have the opportunity to spend a night “under the stars” in these special landscapes to help more children to connect with nature, Mr Glover suggests.
AONBs would be given a boost, with new protections, responsibilities, titles and funding to help them be greener, more beautiful and more welcoming to the public.

Defra, which commissioned the review, will now consider the recommendations. Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “These landscapes are the jewels in the crown of our countryside and are a cornerstone of our rural economy.
“We are committed to ensuring they flourish as havens for nature and sites that everyone in the country goes to visit for inspiration, adventure or relaxation:’

Mr Glover, who led the review, said: “From the high fells of the Lake District to the wildness of Exmoor, England’s most beautiful places define our country.

“Today we are setting out a big, bold plan to bring them alive to tackle the crisis in our natural environment and make sure they are there for everyone to enjoy.

“If we take action, we can make our country healthier, happier, greener, more beautiful and part of all our lives.
“Seventy years ago this year we created our national parks for a nation that had just won the Second World War. Now it’s time to reignite that mission.”

Richard Brown, a member of the group campaigning for a new Dorset national park, said talks were already under way with Natural England, and from there a recommendation would go to Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

He said that becoming a national park would create a new onus to deliver housing according to local needs, along with better facilities for businesses.

“We are losing young families and we need more affordable housing.

“National parks aren’t subject to central government housing targets, but have a duty to respond proactively to local housing needs.

“Some people think a national park would stop development, but we do need development – the right kind of development:’
With several hurdles still to negotiate, they have not yet thought of a name for the new national park. Mr Brown suggested that could come from the public.”

Source: KEITH ROSSITER keith.rossiter@reachpic.com
Western Morning News 24 Sept 2019