Mel Stride

    DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK Chief Executive Kevin Bishop was in Westminster last week to meet with Central Devon MP Mel Stride, whose rural constituency covers the eastern half of Dartmoor National Park including its largest towns. Mr Bishop asked for Mr Stride’s help in lobbying the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for funding.  He identified a number of priority areas for additional funding, including repairs and improvements to the public rights of way network following recent extreme weather and an important opportunity to pilot, with the farming and landowning community and other partners, a new approach to farm support post Brexit.

    Mr Bishop said:

    “The heavy snow we experienced in March has significantly increased the cost of annual repairs leaving dozens of routes in poor condition.  This is not a one off, we are seeing more sudden intense rainfall and this is leading to erosion of the access network.  Climate change is having an impact: records show that average monthly rainfall has increased by 15% in comparison to the 1960-1990 climatic baseline.  We need greater support if we are to ensure Dartmoor remains fully accessible for two million visitors to the national park each year who play a huge role in supporting the region’s economy.”

    “We are also keen to work with the farming and landowning community to develop a new approach to farm support and rural development post Brexit.  Farming Futures is an existing pilot in partnership with the Dartmoor Commoners, Duchy of Cornwall, Natural England, RSPB and South West Water with farmers designing the management to deliver a range of public benefits – improved biodiversity, protection of archaeology, public access etc.  There is an opportunity to extend this pilot to demonstrate how the Government’s vision of an enhanced environment, high quality food production and vibrant rural communities can be delivered at a local level.”

    Mr Stride added:

    “I am very happy to lobby DEFRA ministers to see whether they can support the Rural Productivity Network proposals and whether the department can help with the cost of repairs to paths, walls, drainage ditches and hedge banks due to the weather we experienced.”

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    Photo: Dartmoor National Park Chief Executive Kevin Bishop seeking help from Central Devon MP Mel Stride in lobbying DEFRA for funding to repair damage and erosion from the severe weather in March.