By Tony Whitbread,
The Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere is now a year old and in that time it has built up a good record of pioneering a positive future for people and nature in the area.
The Biosphere – an area of land and coastal waters between the rivers Adur and Ouse – was officially recognised by UNESCO on 11 June 2014. With the city of Brighton and Hove at its heart, it joined a unique global network of over 600 international demonstration areas across 100 countries.
The Biosphere name confers a high level of international recognition on an area, but it does not come with any extra guaranteed money or powers. So action has to be delivered through imaginative approaches. And since its launch the Biosphere has developed new partnerships, improved the natural environment, organised a campaign of community engagement and provided more opportunities for local people and visitors to experience its special nature.
Paula Murray, chair of the Biosphere Board, says “We want to build on the success of our first year through more innovative major projects, novel partnerships and greater community engagement. Our aim is to sustainably improve our environment, our relationship with it and ourselves too.”
The work of the Biosphere programme has successfully:
- Worked with Brighton & Hove City Council’s Cityparks team and the University of Sussex to create new wildflower areas for bees and butterflies in Brighton, including a new ‘bee-bed’ at The Level
- Created fun and stimulating educational programmes for children including a virtual world of the Biosphere based on the popular computer game, Minecraft
- Developed projects with a range of public and private bodies to reduce impacts of flooding and to improve the quality of our drinking water from the chalk downs
- Worked with Visit Brighton to develop a 'Best of our Biosphere' guide for visitors and local people, as well as a host of new materials for promotional and educational purposes
The Biosphere Partnership of some 40 local organisations, including the Sussex Wildlife Trust, aspires to not just enhance the environment but also to raise the profile and awareness of how special our area is with both residents and visitors, as a key foundation for the local economy too.
Murray says, “We have established a Biosphere Board that will work with the Greater Brighton Economic Board to take forward a programme of new projects that deliver for both people and the environment, for example by diversifying our visitor offer to include eco-tourism.”
We all rely 100% on the environment for our health and well-being, yet people in towns and cities can become isolated from this reality. Brighton, Hove and Lewes are set within a world-class environment, both in the surrounding Downs and threading into the urban areas themselves. The Biosphere has created the perfect opportunity to increase awareness of this precious resource and hopefully provide a stimulus for us to care for it for years to come.