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England's new environment champion on Ilkley Moor

[Monday 10 April 2006]

The woman charged with protecting England's rural wilderness has seen first-hand how a new project aims to increase countryside access in the region.

The Chief Executive designate of Natural England, Dr Helen Phillips, visited Ilkley Moor last week to view the moorland management regime.

The moor is a proposed site for a Higher Level Environmental Stewardship agreement and will receive Government funding to protect and enhance its special wildlife habitats.

Ms Phillips also met with participants key to improving opportunities for people to access the moor.

From October this year, Natural England will be responsible for conserving, enhancing and managing the natural environment, bringing together the Rural Development Service (RDS), English Nature and the Landscape, Access and Recreation division of the Countryside Agency.

Dr Phillips said: "I am delighted to be visiting Ilkley Moor today. It's a fantastic example of how Natural England will bring together the management of fabulous landscapes, the public's enjoyment of them through recreation and the all important objectives for more wildlife.

"The founding organisations have made a great start and given Natural England a sound platform for demonstrating how we will maximise the public benefits of a healthy and vibrant environment."

The Stewardship Scheme aims to bolster the management of the moor, currently designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Martyn Howat, of English Nature, said: "The securing of a Higher Level Stewardship agreement for Ilkley Moor will be fantastic for this most popular of Yorkshire locations.

"I welcome the prospect of moors' land managers employing new approaches to the running of their farming and sporting enterprises and building further on the valuable contribution they have already been making to England's farming and wildlife."

Dr Phillips used the visit to meet with representatives of the local authority and Yorkshire Water in an attempt to improve public access on the moor. The area is seen as a major recreational resource for the people of Ilkley, Bradford, Keighley and beyond.

"As Natural England, we will work together in new ways with partners, land managers and local people to encourage greater enjoyment of the moors and promote better understanding of their natural, cultural and historical importance.

"By managing access and recreation in a more co-ordinated way, Natural England will provide major new benefits for wildlife, landscapes and people."

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