6. The Countryside

6.1 Consultation Results

Situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Silverdale’s countryside is supported by many organisations, including the AONB Unit (funded by the local authorities and Countryside Agency), the AONB Landscape Trust, the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and by many volunteers. However striking a balance between protecting the countryside and allowing people access to use it recreationally can be difficult: Comments illustrating this ranged from ‘not enough signposts’; ‘too many signposts’; ‘encourage tourism’; ‘too many tourists’; ‘protect the countryside’; ‘don’t make it like a museum’. For instance more footpaths are requested in certain areas whilst other people are calling for restricted zones to protect habitats and wildlife. Other suggestions include speed limits on roads or ‘slow lanes’; ensuring countryside organisations communicate with each other more; and limiting dog dirt. The view on dog dirt is almost unanimous: it is a serious problem. People would like to see dog fines enforced and more dog dirt litter-bins. A few people even want dogs banned from footpaths altogether.

6.2 Action Group Report

The group found that residents, whether born and bred here or newly settled, understand and appreciate the special character of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and whilst there is naturally some interest in what are seen as improvements to village life, the central principle must always be borne in mind, that our countryside, its plants and animals and the complex relationships they have with one another, are fragile and need particular care in their preservation.

Fortunately there is a wealth of both amateur and professional skill available locally to protect, conserve and enhance this state of affairs. Several major national conservation organisations are present in the area, owning and administering between them, with resident wardens and other local staff, a considerable proportion of land within the Parish.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has maintained exemplary supervision of their reserve at Leighton Moss, a large wetland area of international importance. Recently they have acquired more land which they will manage so as to protect nationally endangered species such as the Marsh Harrier, the Bittern and the Avocet.

The National Trust have in their care Eaves Wood, Jack Scout, Heald Brow and other properties, and their emphasis is on the protection of limestone landscape, with woodland maintenance using traditional methods such as coppicing, and traditional grazing using ponies as well as sheep. English Nature has charge of the Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve, and here, too, the vegetation is controlled so that vulnerable species can prosper.

There are also two local organisations, the Arnside and Silverdale A.O.N.B. Landscape Trust and the A.O.N.B. Unit. The former supports conservation work by a variety of means, including by raising money, recruiting voluntary labour for working parties, publishing information and reaching a wider audience with their Journal, Keer to Kent, while the Unit is responsible for the development of the Management Plan required by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Ecologically friendly farming also continues to play a major role. Its custodianship is vital to the maintenance of the countryside.

The Action Group concluded that the proper custodianship of the countryside is thus in capable hands. The major recommendation of the group was therefore that the Silverdale Parish Council maintains and extends links with these organisations, to further the cause of countryside conservation. This would enable an integrated approach to future planning in the village, which is of benefit not only for the peace of mind of the residents, but also for the landscape and the wildlife in this most special area. The A.O.N.B. Management Plan addresses these issues, but of more significance is the statutory Development Plan framework, currently comprising the Lancashire Structure Plan and the Lancaster City Local Plan.

The group also felt that people in Silverdale can help in this vital work by joining one or more of the above organisations and supporting activities. The villagers should be made aware of their own responsibility for the custodianship of the village. It is notoriously difficult to engender public consciousness over such matters, but the conservation bodies work hard at publicity, with an increasing emphasis on work with local schools. To the objection that such campaigns have been tried in the past and have met with only limited success, it should be said that such efforts are by their very nature of limited duration, and need periodic renewal for long-term effect.

Suggestions were also made as to how the Parish Council might supplement and integrate this activity, including a suggestion for a Silverdale Festival celebrating the importance and beauty of the area. This would enable maximum national publicity whilst respecting the autonomy of the various bodies. The increased influx of tourists could be managed, with some of the events being staged in the middle of the village, benefiting local shops.

The group noted that local guest houses and hotels already do well from visitors who come to the area principally because they are naturalists, ornithologists, or like walking. This kind of tourism is only to be welcomed, and represents a “niche market” which can be catered for without investment in new attractions, expensive new development and inordinate amounts of time in the inevitable planning and discussion.

On the contentious issue of dog dirt, the group felt that dog owners need further encouragement to clean up after their pets, as there is strong feeling about the fouling of footpaths, especially close to the heart of the village. A renewed campaign seems to be called for, and once again a broader view is recommended. Neither dog owners nor any other special interest group should be made to feel they are scapegoats, and it would be helpful in this context if it were stressed that all pet owners need to behave responsibly, including those who have domestic cats, which not only cause fouling problems of their own but are destructive in gardens, especially where there are seed beds, and are disastrous in this especially sensitive wildlife area, where we are trying to support a dwindling songbird population.

On other environmental issues, the group commented that pollution of the environment is not perpetrated by big business alone. Everyone has a part to play in securing a cleaner, greener environment. Various suggestions were made in this context, covering issues such as recycling, environmentally friendly gardening practices, noise pollution and litter. In addition the Group made some recommendations covering transport and housing and these are included under the relevant chapters.

6.3 Action

6.3.1 Short Term

Planning and Liaison

  1. Maintain and strengthen the cordial relations which already exist between the Parish Council and the various conservation bodies.
  2. Take an integrated approach to future planning in the village, including ensuring that the Village Plan inputs to the A.O.N.B. Management Plan and the Lancaster City Local Plan/ Local Development Framework.
  3. Liaise with conservation bodies over contentious or damaging planning applications and development plans.
  4. Continue to alert villagers to all planning applications, as they already are via the parish magazine, but perhaps with (given sufficient time) more emphasis on communal discussion, lobbying and action.


  1. Help develop the existing niche market for naturalists, ornithologists, and walkers.

Other Environmental Issues

  1. Make the villagers aware, by means of meetings, leaflets, posters, notices or with any other form of education and information, of their responsibility for the custodianship of the village and of what constitutes good practice, including the following:
    • A renewed campaign against dog fouling, including publicising how existing litter bins can be used for dog dirt disposal.
    • Wider awareness-raising about the impact of pets (e.g. cats) on the environment.
    • Discouraging the widespread use of slug pellets in local gardens by making gardeners aware of the dangers and their solutions.
    • Taking action against litter, which is a serious nuisance in some parts of the village.
  2. Work with conservation bodies to introduce a nest-box scheme in which declining populations of songbirds are given a greater choice of nest sites by the provision, at cost or on loan, of suitably constructed nest boxes.
  3. Monitor and control (if possible) noise from motorcycles, motorised hang gliders and microlight aircraft, low­ flying jet fighters, and speedboats in the Bay.

6.3.2    Medium Term

  1. Work together with conservation bodies in helping to purchase pieces of land, as they become available, to set aside for nature conservation.
  2. Investigate the possibility of bringing together an integrated programme of events, possibly called The Silverdale Festival, celebrating the importance and beauty of the area.
  3. Encourage and extend the City Council’s new kerb-side recycling scheme.