Wildlife Trust Chief Exec Says Landscape Important For Tourism

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of the UK Wildlife Trusts

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of the UK Wildlife Trusts

The Chief Executive of the UK’s Wildlife Trusts organisation has spoken of the importance of our landscape to the tourism industry in Scilly.

Stephanie Hilborne is on a three-day visit to the islands, where she’s been meeting local Trust employees and members of the committee.

The UK’s Wildlife Trusts are completely independent charities and she heads the central umbrella organisation that provides support and engages with government and other stakeholders.

Stephanie feels that other Trusts should know more about the amazing marine and heathland landscapes that we have in Scilly.

From Radio Scilly

Stephanie Hilborne talks to Radio Scilly about the importance of the landscape in Scilly

One of Stephanie’s roles is to help connect different Trusts in the UK together. She says Alderney is a similar size and has similar issues to Scilly and she’s asked Trust Manager, Sarah Mason, to visit the Channel Islands to meet Trust members there.

And like those islands, she believes the Wildlife Trust has an important part to play in the local tourism economy here in Scilly.

The local Trust’s grazing policy has angered some members of the community with fences and other Trust property being damaged.

Stephanie says our Trust is unusual in managing a ‘phenomenal’ amount of land, around 60% of the islands.

She says that makes them very visible and some residents might feel the Trust has more power than it actually does.

But she says that isn’t the case. The Trust is entirely owned by its members and anyone can have the opportunity to be part of the decision making process

All Trusts are seeing their funding squeezed. Stephanie says there’s less money coming in from local authorities and EU rural subsidies, although membership is holding up remarkably well. Around 800,000 people in the UK are members of a Trust.

That’s something she’d like the Scilly’s Trust to work on, especially encouraging more holidaymakers to become members and to keep them engaged when they return home.

Nationally a big untapped source of funding is the corporate sector. She says many large companies are now starting to realise the benefits that the countryside brings to their employees.

And Stephanie says there are studies using nature and the environment to address medical issues like stress, mental health and obesity at a fraction of the cost of conventional drugs.

But she feels the biggest threat is coming from relaxations in planning rules.

The UK is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, says Stephanie, and so far that’s been managed well through the strict planning laws.

She says the fact that we still have large tracts of countryside is remarkable.

But anything that threatens those controls is going to be a problem in the future.