A NATIONAL conference on issues and challenges around managing the country’s uplands takes place at Penrith.

Against a backdrop of current consultations on proposals which could see CAP payments reshape the uplands, the conference will provide a forum for debate on the many different, and sometimes conflicting, elements which have an interest in the uplands of England, Scotland and Wales.

“Future Upland Management: Balancing environmental, social and economic demands” is at Newton Rigg College on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 13 and 14. It is organised by the National Centre for the Uplands which is based there.

Centre leader Douglas Phillips said: “The conference could not come at a more opportune moment, as policy makers across the UK look to finalise changes regarding the re-distribution of CAP funds, which could have a huge impact on how we manage our uplands and on the rural communities that rely upon them economically.

“Our aim is to provide an opportunity for debate that will increase awareness of the different perspectives and thus encourage greater understanding and co-operation.

“We need to ensure that we build a vibrant and sustainable upland economy based on agriculture and positive land management that will ultimately protect some of the most vulnerable and precious landscapes in the United Kingdom for future generations.”

The first day’s speakers include Mike Rowe, Defra’s deputy director, on balancing environmental and agricultural demands; Drew Sloan, chief agricultural officer for Scotland, on the future of upland agriculture in Scotland; Richard Ali, chief executive of the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, on wildlife management, environment, income & employment; Robert Sullivan, partner farming development, Strutt & Parker, on how CAP reform will shape the uplands; and Neil Hesseltine, farmer from Hill Top Farm, Malham, on his experiences of grazing native breeds.

Speakers on the second day include Dame Helen Ghosh, director general of the National Trust, on the role of the uplands in the National Trust’s vision for the English and Welsh countryside; Liz Philip, principal of Askham Bryan College, on the challenges of rural education in the uplands and the benefits it can bring; Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, on the future for upland sheep production; Neville Elstone, chartered forester with Cumbria Woodlands and former Newton Rigg College student, on profitable and productive upland afforestation.

Dr Gareth Clay, lecturer in physical geography at the University of Manchester, will discuss upland peat restoration: challenges and impact; Prof Robin Pakeman, professor of ecological science at the James Hutton Institute, on the role of grazing in the ecology of the uplands; Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, on what park users want to see; and Mark Avery, former conservation director, RSPB, on judging the balance between iconic birds and commercial land use.

To register and for details, call Michaela Dixon on 01768- 893508 or e-mail michaela.dixon@newtonrigg.a c.uk.