5 July 2013

Sussex on course for first new Biosphere Reserve

Around 150 square miles of Sussex countryside, coast and urban settlements could soon be heralded as one of the world’s finest environments.

As a member of the partnership to make the area a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Brighton & Hove City Council’s environment committee is set to endorse the management strategy which will allow it to move forward with the application for Biosphere status.

The area, the same size as the Isle of Wight, and including Brighton & Hove, is on course to become the first new UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the UK for 40 years.

Biosphere areas are environments which promote a balanced relationship between people and nature.

The area is home to over 350,000 residents and attracts 12 million visitors each year.

Thousands of residents have already been involved in the project and 1,400 have signed up to become Friends of the Biosphere. Consultation results showed that 94% of respondents supported the proposals to become a Biosphere Reserve.

Councillor Pete West, chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee said:

“Being designated a UN Biosphere would be a fantastic boost to the city and would make a significant contribution towards conserving our environment for future generations. It will also bring benefits for local businesses by encouraging eco-tourism.

“It is also about educating those living in and visiting the area to respect the ecological services nature provides – for example we are in a water stress area and rely on the Downs for our water supply.

“Biosphere status will also help raise awareness of endangered species and encourage people to think about how we can use resources wisely in order to reduce negative impacts on the environment which could push habitats and species into extinction.”

Over the past two years, a partnership of more than 30 groups, including local councils, educational establishments, businesses, conservation groups and voluntary organisations, have been working together to produce a Biosphere bid to UNESCO and an accompanying management strategy.

The strategy aims to inspire local people to work together to raise awareness and to take better care of the local countryside, coastal and urban environments.

The proposed Biosphere area lies between the River Adur and the River Ouse and includes the South Downs National Park here. It is home to a variety of rare wildlife habitats including chalk grassland, wetland and estuarine environments, shingle beaches, chalk cliffs and reefs.  Brighton & Hove also has the National Elm Collection.

Many residents said they would like to see improvements in areas relating to sustainable transport, waste and recycling, nature conservation, sustainable economic development and public awareness.

If agreed by all the partners, the application will be completed and submitted to UNESCO in September and a decision will be made by June/July next year. Brighton & Hove’s Environment, Transport & Sustainability Committee meets on Tuesday, 9 July.

The Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee is open to the public and will be held on Tuesday, 9 July at Hove Town Hall, from 4pm. Read the reports here [the Biosphere report is Agenda Item no. 12]