Conference spotlight on uncertain countryside

Conference spotlight on uncertain countryside name

With farming and landscapes facing their biggest changes since Word War II a major national conference assesses the impact of a countryside in flux.

Nationally recognised experts, including senior Defra staff, will be taking part in the virtual Farming with Nature conference on May 26 amid what has been described as extremely challenging times.

Arranged by the Ambleside-based Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas, it comes during a ‘perfect storm of change’, according to organiser, University of Cumbria’s Professor of Practice, Dr Julia Aglionby.

She explained: “From this year, farmers’ direct payments will be phased out, meaning those working in our national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) stand to lose income equating to over 90 percent of their net profit by 2028 unless they adjust and adapt.

“Around 80 per cent of land in these areas is farmed or grazed. The farmers who manage and care for it will now be paid for providing environmental public benefits instead of payments based on the number of hectares they farm.”

Dr Aglionby said the conference was being staged at a critical time, especially with the government’s response to Defra’s Landscape Review expected this month. It recommended national parks and AONBs should be at the heart of recovery.

She added: “The government has said it wants 30 percent of the country to be protected for nature by 2030. We will explore how the one of the transition funds, to be launched this year, can support farmers in protected landscapes to adapt their businesses.

“Defra secretary, George Eustice, has said it would contribute to enhancing biodiversity and investing in infrastructure to attract more diverse visitors to support local economies.

“The climate emergency and need to reverse the decline in biodiversity have led to the change in policy, along with a determination to improve health and wellbeing by enhancing public access to nature.”

Co-hosted with the Food, Farming & Countryside Commission, the conference sees leading keynote speakers, Dame Fiona Reynolds, former head of the National Trust, who is taking over as chair of the National Audit Office, Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB and representatives of the Tenant Farmers’ Association, Natural England and hill farmers.

Although tickets for the May 26 conference are virtually sold out, there is availability for a free panel discussion, Q&A session and film #UKNationalParkin100Seconds running from 7.30 to 9pm on May 25.  

Evening event booking: https://www.trybooking.co.uk/ZXD

Limited conference tickets on: https://www.trybooking.co.uk/ZWZ