Moorland on edge of Sheffield to be run by National Trust and RSPB

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Popular parts of the Peak District on the edge of Sheffield are to be handed over to a conservation group and a charity as the city council seeks new ways of managing the countryside following budget cuts.

Burbage, Houndkirk and Hathersage Moors – which cover around four square miles on the western fringe of the city – will be leased to the National Trust and the RSPB for 25 years if proposals are approved.

The view from Houndkirk Moor, taken by Les Cornthwaite

The view from Houndkirk Moor, taken by Les Cornthwaite

The landscape contains eight scheduled monuments and many other archaeological features, as well as providing some of the most popular areas for outdoor recreation in the Peak.

The new arrangement addresses the need to improve management as government funding dries up.

It will also help to realise the aims of the Sheffield Moors Masterplan – drawn up two years ago to conserve the protected landscape more effectively – and continues the drive to make the city a premier destination for outdoors enthusiasts.

Over the last five years, the National Trust and RSPB have worked together under the Eastern Moors Partnership, and have been looking after nearby Totley Moss and Big Moor.

It is envisaged that the lease will bring a large boost to the area, as the organisations will be better placed to offer investment and access grant funding.

By 2018-19, more than £350,000 would be spent on several projects, including conservation work on habitats, hiring staff and attracting more visitors.

The trust and the charity will also have to produce a management plan on a five-yearly basis, setting out their plans for the land, as well as how they intend to improve infrastructure, such as parking, paths and fences.

On Wednesday, members of Sheffield Council’s cabinet committee will be told that managing the site directly - with complete control and flexibility - is no longer considered viable.

“Existing resources are inadequate to ensure sustainable management, a situation which is unlikely to improve in the forseeable future,” a report says.

The council has owned Burbage, Houndkirk and Hathersage Moors since the 1920s, and the land forms a significant part of the Sheffield Moors Partnership, which was set up in 2010.

For the last five years the National Trust has managed the land on a temporary basis - however, the short-term agreement is not viewed as ideal. The partnership - which covers 21 sq m of moorland including Stanage/North Lees, Blacka Moor, the Longshaw Estate and the Eastern Moors Estate - involves the Peak Park Authority, the RSPB, Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trusts and Natural England along with the trust.

Coun Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: “This new lease agreement allows these groups to plan the management and bring investment into this sensitive area over a longer time-scale, using their extensive expertise and resources.’’

Ted Talbot, countryside manager for the National Trust in the Peak District, said: “Our natural environment is increasingly under pressure and the trust believes we need to meet these challenges.’’

Rebekah Newman, the Peak Park’s property manager for Stanage/North Lees, said the development was a ‘significant step forward’.

Agreed break points will be written into the contract. After the first five years, there will be the option to add further land - the former Burbage Plantation - to the lease.