In the Staffordshire Moorlands, we are perfectly positioned to champion nature-based solutions to climate change and establish a Nature Recovery Network. We are blessed with 222 square miles of beautiful green spaces that we have all appreciated more than ever during this difficult period. Ever since we declared a climate emergency in July 2019, our Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) has put encouraging people to connect with nature at the heart of our mission to fight climate change.
That’s why I am delighted, as Cabinet Member for Climate Change & Biodiversity, to be leading a district-wide effort on our Green Infrastructure Delivery Plan. We have worked with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to produce detailed habitat mapping where our teams have investigated the quality and distinctiveness of seven different habitat types – including grassland, moorland, heathland, wetland, woodland, pasture and arable land, and urban.
The habitat mapping of the district has helped identify opportunities for green infrastructure delivery and shows key locations where habitats could be created or enhanced through wildlife corridors. We have also looked at opportunities to develop more walking and cycling routes through our active travel maps.
We now have a list of 60 nature-based project proposals in the plans, which will be overseen by our Green Infrastructure Projects Board. The council will work with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and other partners on which ones to prioritise to develop a smaller number of deliverable projects that will need to be described in greater detail, with specific and costed outputs.
One of these projects is our ambitious community orchards project to plant 30 orchards across the Moorlands in partnership with parish councils and community groups. Our community orchards will help to reduce carbon emissions, provide valuable habitats for wildlife, and improve the health and wellbeing of local people.
Some of the other projects will focus on enhancing green areas maintained by the council to improve biodiversity; ongoing peatland restoration work at the Roaches following the 2018 fire; enhancing the SMDC-promoted walks network; improving signage and wayfinding on the canal network to encourage walkers and cyclists to stop off and visit our town centres; and the development of a Greenway between Tean and Cheadle, using the disused railway line.
Once rooted in the ground, we hope that our Nature Recovery Network will leave a lasting legacy and help us to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited. We hope other councils across the country will also prioritise nature-based solutions in the years ahead.
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council is a member of our Countryside Climate Network.