Flooding 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 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:
“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.
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: http://bit.ly/15ChSFR
Especially 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.
The Sussex Spring Conference entitled Futureproofing played to a packed hall with a line of speakers and panellists headed by Nick Herbert MP.
His 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 →
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).
Biosphere 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.
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)?
SSSIs 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:
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:
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):