Adapting to Climate Change in the Ouse Valley

Here is a short film to raise interest in how long term climate change is likely to affect us in the Ouse Valley, and how we as communities might be able to do something about it by planning now.

Please take a look and pass it on to anyone you think may be interested.

The video comes from the Environment Agency’s Coastal Communities 2150 project and was made at the workshop developed for the CC2150 project by Lewes & Ouse Valley eco-nomics Group (Transition Town Lewes), as part of the Group’s Chalking up the Benefits project.

Flood risks and ecosystem services

Screen Shot 2014-01-04 at 22.59.59 PMFlooding has been in the news again, and for many unfortunate people it has been in their homes!  You can use this map to find out the flood risk where you live, and check here for the latest flood alerts. You can also monitor the river level in Lewes at this page.

UK Government policy acknowledges that climate change is increasing the risk of flooding, but are we doing enough to protect the ecosystem services that could mitigate some of this risk?  Here is a quote from a recent report by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

Natural flood risk management involves working with natural processes to reduce flood
risk and damage. It involves working at the catchment scale and concerns the alteration,
restoration or use of landscape features; mechanisms include storing water using
landscape features, increasing soil infiltration, and slowing water by interrupting and
increasing resistance to its flow. Such measures may be able to reduce the height of
downstream water levels during a flood, or delay the arrival of the peak of the flood. These
measures, applied strategically, may also yield wider ecosystem service benefits such as
enhancing water quality, habitat for wildlife, biodiversity, carbon capture, landscape and
greenspace provision. When these benefits are taken into account, natural flood risk
management may in some cases be the best option.

The full report is here: Defra, 2013, Developing the potential for Payments for Ecosystem Services: an Action Plan

The protection of natural wetlands is one way to reduce flood risks.  You can read more about the benefits of local wetlands, and the threats they face, in this report from The Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Caroline Lucas comments on Natural Capital report

The State of Natural Capital Report, published in April this year, was recently discussed in Parliament. Prepared by the Natural Capital Committee, an independent advisory body, the key messages of the report are:

  • Natural capital assets are in decline and these trends should be measured
  • Changes in natural capital should be properly included in national and corporate accounts.
  • Changes in natural capital should be properly valued and those values more effectively included in decision-making processes.
  • Stewardship of natural capital is good for growth

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and formerly leader of the Green Party helped to spark an interesting debate in Parliament on 21 October with her comments:

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 17.09.32 PM“Oscar Wilde famously spoke of those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. If valuing nature in the way suggested will halt the current decline of our precious wildlife and habitats, it is to be welcomed, but does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need very strong safeguards, including in the planning system, to ensure that by putting a pound sign on priceless ecosystems such as ancient woodlands we do not inadvertently open the door to their destruction?”

The Hasard transcript of the full debate can be read here, and further information about the work of the Natural Capital Committee is available here.

Natural England publishes profile of South Downs

Here is something we have been waiting for:  a major study of the ecosystem services provided by the South Downs!

Natural England is currently preparing profiles for England’s 159 National Character Areas (NCAs). These are areas that share similar landscape characteristics.  The South Downs are NCA #125, and the report for this area has just been published.  The pdf file can be downloaded here:

NCA125Especially valuable, the ‘Opportunities’ section of this report provides 52 examples of how ecosystem services can be improved in the South Downs area.  Some of these suggestions are very broad, while others are very specific. Here are five example…

  • Connecting historic ancient chalk grassland sites to improve their durability and permeability, benefiting the species plants and invertebrates
  • Exploring opportunities to restore natural marshland areas and to enhance the overall ecological quality of grazing marsh grasslands.
  • Broadening the South Downs Way National Trail as a semi-natural corridor and improving the natural qualities of the route.
  • Promoting a range of sustainable land management incentives, including creating areas of conservation headlands and winter stubbles supporting threatened arable wildflowers and farmland birds (such as the turtle dove) on the cereal-dominated dip slope, in support of the South Downs Farmland Bird Initiative.
  • Maintaining, conserving and enhancing the area’s distinctive historic architecture and traditional buildings which have details such as knapped flint, cobbles, brick quoins and timber framing, and which use locally produced bricks and have roofs of tile, slate or thatch.

Download the report to read the full list of suggestions for improving the benefits we get from the South Downs.

Sussex Spring Conference 2013: Futureproofing

The Sussex Spring Conference entitled Futureproofing played to a packed hall with a line of speakers and panellists headed by Nick Herbert MP.

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 20.42.45 PMHis keynote speech was a passionate and persuasive plea for the public – and members of CPRE in particular – to see themselves as custodians of the countryside. While the value of our arts and cultural heritage – from the performing arts to  St Pauls Cathedral – command widespread support with  a sizeable and active section of the public seeing themselves as ‘custodians’, this role is less evident when it comes to our countryside.

Instead our countryside is often seen as an empty space, an untapped resource to be exploited rather than an asset to be valued on its own terms. In particular he attacked the simplistic assumptions that addressing the housing problem – and boosting the economy   at the same time – simply means liberalising the Planning System.

Nick Herbert also vigorously attacked the high handed and autocratic approach of Planning Inspectorate’s recent decisions to overturn local neighbourhood plans that are at the centre of the Localist agenda. Despite well thought out plans based on consultation, debate and a referendum, and despite the fact that these often include significant housing development – increasing numbers of neighbourhood plans are being overturned by the Planning Inspectorate.

His speech resonated strongly with the audience and it became clear that for most people, the single biggest concern was how to counter the significant threat to the countryside, not just from the predations of property developers, but from an unelected and unaccountable Planning Inspectorate that appeared intent on disregarding the localist agenda and pushing as hard as possible to promote housing development on protected and undesignated greenbelt sites. Continue reading

Do you want to live in a Biosphere Reserve?

The campaign to get Brighton, Hove and Lewes designated as a Biosphere Reserve is now underway.  Local residents can visit a small exhibition about the biosphere campaign in the Lewes Town Hall this week, between 28 January and 01 February.  There is also an opportunity to participate in the consultation process (in other words… you can fill in a form).

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 18.07.59 PMBiosphere reserves are places with world-class environments that are designated by the United Nations to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature. They are places where conservation and sustainable development go hand in hand.

At present there are only 6 biosphere reserves in the UK, none of them in the South-East. More information is available at the campaign website.

Special Sites around Lewes

Did you know that there are 64 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in East Sussex, and eight of them are in a 5-mile radius of Lewes, covering approximately 4,500 acres (1,800 ha)?

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 10.16.33 AMSSSIs are the country’s very best wildlife and geological sites.  Nobody will be suprised to hear that most of the sites around Lewes are on the downs, but we also have two sites along the river and one that is a piece of ancient woodland.

Here is a list of the Lewes SSSIs.  Click on the name to download a short description of each site:

Click on this link to see a complete list of SSSIs is East Sussex. You can also access this information using the interactive map at the Natural England website.

Parts of two of the SSSIs in the Lewes area have been designated as National Nature Reserves (NNRs), out of a total of only four in East Sussex.  More information about our local NNRs is available here:

Other parts of the Lewes Downs SSSI are managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust, specifically Malling Down and Southerham, whlle parts of the Lewes Brooks SSSI are managed by RSPB.

Finally, we must not forget that Lewes has its own Local Naure Reserve, the Railway Land: 25 acres (10 ha) of woodland, reed-bed and grassland that is accessible from the centre of town.

LDC Core Strategy

Lewes District Council has produced a Core Strategy.  This document sets out the strategic-level planning policies which will guide development in Lewes District (including the part of the district within the South Downs National Park) until 2030.

A number of the background documents will be of interest to members of L&OVe including the following (click on the links to open the relevant pages or documents):

Representations can be made over a 10 week period, between Friday 11th January and Friday 22nd March 2013.  Details of how to make a representation are given at this page of the LDC website.