The Pennine Prospects Annual Conference brought together a wide range of people from across the South Pennines and beyond to discuss the economic and social opportunities available for all in the area.
Pam Warhurst, Chair of Pennine Prospects, sent out a rallying call to put the South Pennines on the map when she welcomed delegates to Rochdale Town Hall.
“This is a vibrant landscape; it’s a people’s landscape. We have a distinct heritage that is inspirational to many and attracts people from around the world. We have fantastic countryside for everybody including walkers, cyclists and horse riders,” Pam said.
“We need to take the message beyond the people who already know about the great things we have on offer in the South Pennines. We need to persuade people that our uplands are worth investing in; we have to grab the initiative now and up our game to meet the challenges of the future.”
The keynote speaker, Dr Michael Schwarze-Rodrian, gave an inspirational presentation about the Emscher Landscape Park, in Germany’s Ruhr Valley; an area devastated by industry. The project has brought together seven neighbouring regions and 53 cities across an area that is home to over five million people. The regeneration started in 1988 and continues today.
Michael said: “We have people with different knowledge and skills working together, on the big plans and the small details. It’s all about teamwork; we are going through a shared experience. It takes time to rejuvenate a post-industrial landscape.”
There have been a number of creative projects, such as the ‘slinky bridge’, which is a colourful footbridge designed by an artist and built by an engineer; and the ‘Still A40’, a celebration which saw up to three million people share their culture and food on a major highway which closed for the day.
Paul Osborne, Programme Manager for Sustrans, set the scene for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, which passes through the South Pennines in July 2014. He encouraged the conference delegates to consider the legacy of the race now for maximum impact and argued cyclists are a valuable commodity, bringing significant resources into the local economy.
Walter Menzies, Chair of the Manchester and Pennine Waterways Partnership, introduced the work of the recently created Canal and River Trust, a charity that took over the work of British Waterways in 2012
“Moving to charitable status has enabled us to attract more volunteers and new sources of income. We need to extend our appeal beyond the traditional users, such as boaters, and make sure the canals can contribute to the wider visitor economy,” explained Walter. “We want the canals to inspire and excite people.”
Jason Freezer, from Visit England, highlighted the scale of the visitor economy in England and stressed that tourism is an expanding industry. “It has 5% growth year on year and employs more people in rural areas than agriculture,” explained Jason. “The South Pennines should be marketed as a recognised destination and as part of this strategy a destination management plan should be developed.”
Over 100 delegates attended the Pennine Prospects annual conference, which was held in Rochdale Town Hall. The conference was supported by the Watershed Landscape Project and the South Pennines LEADER programme, (the Rural Development Programme for England), which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union.