Environment Minister visits Exmoor
Environment Minister, Richard Benyon enjoyed a flying visit to Exmoor National Park recently. “The last-minute changes to arrangements for the visit and the relatively short time available, meant that we were only able to show the Minister a brief introduction to Exmoor”, said Dr Nigel Stone, Exmoor National Park Authority Chief Executive. “However, it was clear that he already knew Exmoor quite well and was very interested to hear about projects that included environmental programmes, community projects and work in support of local business development.”
The Minister’s first port of call was the new livestock market at Cutcombe where he met Auctioneer, Peter Huntley, Summerfield Development’s Chris Winter, David Wyborn, Exmoor National Park Authority’s Head of Planning and Sustainable Development and local National Park Authority members Frances Nicholson, Steven Pugsley and Roger Webber.
Having heard about the background to the development of the new market, business units and housing, the Minister was shown the community renewable energy projects at Moorland Hall and examples of self-build local affordable housing before visiting Shearwell Data Limited. Hosted by proprietor Richard Webber, the Minister was clearly impressed by the scale of the business that started out in a lambing shed at Putham Farm. Shearwell now employs 60 staff producing a range of high technology products including electronic identification tags for the UK and international livestock industry. “We were delighted to show the Minister around the business and to explain our role in developing new products and technology to help livestock farmers meet the challenges they face” said Richard Webber.
From Cutcombe the party travelled across Dunkery to the Holnicote estate to hear of the work the National Trust is developing to manage the landscape in ways that help reduce flood risk. One of only three national pilot schemes, the Minister heard from Nigel Hester about the measures being taken to help reduce run off after heavy rain and to spread flood water so that it does not reach such high levels and is kept away from vulnerable properties.
Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “Exmoor National Park has some of the most amazing and unique landscapes in England and I had a great opportunity to experience this first hand and to meet some of the people who are working hard to improve the quality of life for the local community and visitors.
“I was pleased to see the various steps they have taken, such as using the latest technology to galvanise businesses and the pilot scheme set up to reduce the risk of flooding to this beautiful, natural environment.”
“Whilst we only had a short time with the Minister he showed a great deal of interest throughout” said Dr Stone. “He was particularly interested to hear about moorland management in the National Park and concerns about grazing levels and traditional swaling to help manage the moorland vegetation. He also took an interest in the red deer and wildlife conservation projects including the excellent work of Butterfly Conservation to help conserve the very rare Heath Fritillary which has its main remaining UK stronghold on Exmoor.”
Published: 4 May 2012
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