Public insights help shape Exmoor’s future Partnership Plan
Supporting nature was the most important priority for people who responded to a public survey carried out by Exmoor National Park Authority in 2023.
The Authority ran a five-month public opinion survey to help guide the development of a new Partnership Plan for Exmoor National Park, to be launched next year in the National Park’s 70th Anniversary year.
Almost 1,000 people responded to the survey from across Exmoor and beyond, giving their views not only on the issues concerning them most around the National Park, but also on future priorities. A report summarising the key findings has been published on the Authority’s website.
Clare Reid, Head of Strategy and Performance at Exmoor National Park said: “One of our key roles as a National Park Authority is to work with our partners to develop a Partnership (Management) Plan for this special area every five years.
“We have a lot of research and data to feed into the new plan, but it is also important for us to hear the wide-ranging views of the public. Exmoor is protected as a National Park for the nation. It is our role to work together with those that live here, help manage this landscape and enjoy all it offers, to ensure it remains as special tomorrow, as it is today.”
The survey results highlight the aspects of Exmoor most valued by the public, from its wooded valleys and its diversity of habitats to its open moorland.
Loss of wildlife, invasive species, and habitat degradation emerged as the primary concerns under the theme of ‘conserving and enhancing Exmoor’.
Within the theme of ‘helping people understand and enjoy Exmoor’, issues like irresponsible dog walking, game shoot management, and accessibility of footpaths and bridleways took precedence.
Top issues raised in considering ‘support for the prosperity of local communities and businesses’ revealed concerns about job opportunities, affordable housing, sustainable transport, and loss of cultural heritage, such as skills and traditions.
The highest ranked priorities for the future were around improving wildlife habitats, maintaining Exmoor's beauty, and facilitating nature recovery.
Other priorities identified include maintaining and enhancing the network of paths and bridleways used for people to enjoy Exmoor and helping more people to learn about, understand and care for Exmoor. Meanwhile, ensuring the high quality, well-designed development, promoting green businesses, and improving energy efficiency emerged as crucial elements for supporting local communities and businesses. Developing and promoting more sustainable forms of travel for both residents and visitors also emerged as a high priority.
Sarah Bryan, CEO of Exmoor National Park Authority, remarked: "The survey results underscore the passion that both residents and visitors have for Exmoor's special qualities and highlight those issues requiring focused attention. This invaluable input will guide the drafting of our new Partnership Plan, ensuring it aligns with the aspirations of the people we serve and this wonderful landscape.
“It is clear from our own evidence and the results of this survey, that everyone with a passion for Exmoor has to do more for nature. At the same time, we recognise that the National Park is a living landscape, home to a rural population of 10,000 people and is also a national treasure, serving the nation as a place for recreation and inspiration.
“It was particularly interesting to read the 2,000 comments made in responses, which reveal how much people value Exmoor, but also how views on its future can in places be quite polarised. With current public spending being squeezed there are some big challenges ahead as we strive to find a balance that helps to keep Exmoor special for all, but we are committed to working together to achieve some big ambitions.”
The survey results will now be used alongside data gathered through the State of Park report and discussions with partners to develop a new five-year management plan for the National Park. A draft will be published for consultation in the spring before being adopted later in 2024.