Dartmoor Society Statement on Climate Change

Alan Endacott © Mike Rego
Photo: Mike Rego

We have commented on a number of plans and policies over recent years, with specific regard to local issues thrown up by climate change. We are conscious, however, that these don’t necessarily reflect the views of all our members, or capture other innovative and constructive ideas that might be relevant to Dartmoor.

We have gathered together in a single document a number of previous comments, along with some fresh ideas, as the basis for discussion.

We are currently working on a new website for the Dartmoor Society and we are looking at ways that members can contribute thoughts and comments to this document and future policy statements.

Members comments will also be taken into account in any future public consultation exercises.

Our Position on Climate Change in the Dartmoor Context 

In our view, Dartmoor should not simply be seen as a carbon store in the context of tackling climate change and we see inherent dangers in the commodifying of carbon offsetting and its commercial exploitation, in addition to the potential negative impacts of projects driven by public funding schemes rather than clearly identified needs and justifications.

Dartmoor is different to the rest of Devon and the Southwest in many respects and should be treated as such so any general Government policies should be tailored to the specific circumstances of Dartmoor. This is particularly the case when it comes to issues like Energy saving measures and Transport policies.

With regard to renewable energy production, the visual intrusion of wind turbines and solar panels should remain a determining factor within and adjacent to the National Park and local or National Park Authority planning controls should not be overridden by Central Government dictates. However, suitable alternative green solutions, such as hydro-electricity and small-scale wind power generation and discreet solar installations should be considered and encouraged with appropriate financial incentives.

Government-backed energy-saving advisory and grant schemes should take full account of the special character of the National Park and the traditional-built nature of its existing housing stock. We would support a specific and tailored scheme offering help to home owners and rental property landlords within the National Park.

The opportunities for small-scale, light industrial development should also take account of the National Parks special circumstances and encourage suitable employment opportunities within the Park, without the need to travel long distances to work. This also applies to the provision of the technological infrastructure.

New tourism developments should, as far as possible, be sustainable in all aspects of their operation, including encouraging the use of public transport for visitors.

There should be an integrated public transport system for the National Park which allows for transport hubs with ample parking facilities or rail links around the periphery of the National Park and a network of low carbon or carbon-neutral buses and cycle ways with adjacent hire facilities, along with electric vehicle charging facilities.

We strongly believe in the environmental as well as social and economic value of traditional and sustainable farming to Dartmoor and support the marketing and sale of locally-produced food of all kinds over imported and processed food, especially where this involves substantial food miles, poorer welfare and quality standards and impacts on the environment and wellbeing of local populations in other parts of the world. These issues need to be assessed holistically when considering large-scale ‘re-wilding’ initiatives where substantial areas of land are taken out of food production altogether, lest there are unintended or unknown knock-on consequences.

We believe that maintaining appropriate stocking levels on the commons not only helps to control species such as Molinia, gorse and bracken that are less beneficial to a healthy biodiversity but, if well-managed in rotation, also help the process of carbon sequestration and healthy biodiversity. 

We recognise the potential benefits of conserving blanket peat in order to sequester and store more carbon and support projects that give nature a helping hand in the process of regeneration. However, we feel that more account needs to be taken of carbon and methane released as a consequence of the works themselves and that the creation of large areas of deep water on exposed hill tops might actually lead to a reduced efficiency in carbon sequestration.

While we are in favour of native, broad-leafed tree planting and encouraging natural regeneration by the exclusion of livestock (and people) exclusion from agreed areas, we are concerned about the impact of wholesale tree planting over large areas of the uplands as a means of carbon trading as this is not only historically alien to this environment (the Forest of Dartmoor was never a forest!) but trees are ten times less efficient at carbon sequestration than peat.

In our view – based on the knowledge and experience of our farming members and other long-term observations – the overall substantial reduction of livestock numbers over the past thirty years has led to the rising dominance of Molinia, gorse and bracken.

We are concerned by the increasing demand for housing and second homes, both on and around Dartmoor, following the pandemic, not only for the impact this will have on local housing needs and affordability but the consequent pressure for new development and the impact this will have on the local infrastructure and road networks and, in turn, climate change.   

With regard to our own Society activities, we undertake to reduce our carbon footprint by holding more video conference meetings and events and by encouraging lift sharing or the use of public transport for any members’ activities and by offering more online services, for example, using the website, emails and social media to disseminate information and news to members and the wider public where possible and not detrimental to members without access to the necessary technology.   

Alan Endacott, July 2021