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Ratcliffe, Thomas Michael (2021) Contested natural-cultural landscapes in the Anthropocene: connecting community identity, heritage and influence within the North York Moors National Park.

Ratcliffe, Thomas ORCID: https://orcid.org/0009-0005-1117-2849 (2021) Ratcliffe, Thomas Michael (2021) Contested natural-cultural landscapes in the Anthropocene: connecting community identity, heritage and influence within the North York Moors National Park. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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The Anthropocene has instigated unprecedented changes to the human and natural environment interactions in National Parks in the UK. In the North York Moors National Park, changes to rural working life and in environmental attitudes over the last thirty years, together with an increasing dependence on human decision-making, have made these spaces politically and socially contested between different groups of people. Out of these contests over land management, use and ownership, alternative kinds of landscape and new community groups have arisen which put pressure on human-nature interactions in the National Park. The thesis aims to demonstrate how contests in a landscape have been triggered by the shifting of a nature-culture axis by active forces: movement, perception, time and voice. The overarching argument of this thesis is that people’s identity with and influence on the management, use and ownership of a protected landscape, underpinned by these four forces, shapes the nature-culture axis within the landscape thereby affecting how landscapes are contested.

Using the Anthropocene as an academic framework, with few UK protected area studies hitherto framed by this tool, this AHRC-funded research project investigates the identity and influence of new community groups and the valorisation of alternative landscapes in the – as yet – under researched North York Moors National Park. Through landscape and heritage processes, the project explores how people connect with a protected landscape, the role communities have in influencing landscape change or protection and community representation within the power structures of these politicised, contested landscapes. Dwelling theory and non-representational tools enable the project to investigate the everyday experiences and decisions of humans in these relational spaces.

By carrying out walking interviews, rarely used in UK National Park academic research, combined with other mixed qualitative methods, with a range of key stakeholders across the National Park, the project investigates three different types of landscape in the North York Moors: Fylingdales Moor – a heather moorland focusing on improving wildlife conservation; adjacent to Fylingdales Moor; the Woodsmith Mine – a polyhalite mine bringing a futuristic, industrial construction to this National Park landscape; and two heather moorlands in Goathland managed for driven grouse shooting.

The findings of the thesis demonstrate the large amount of power that landowners and land managers have in this National Park over residents’ and visitors’ perceptions and experiences of the landscape by means of the everyday decisions they make on land management. The thesis argues that North York Moors communities could be better represented in landscape change and management negotiations.

Adopting a deliberative, systemic thinking approach – a developing research area in the Political Sciences, the thesis recommends a co-operative, communication system, which amalgamates key decision makers and residents and involves a wider range of stakeholders in the landscape decision-making process. It is proposed that this system can lead to more integrated landscape management and strategic planning where the ordinary citizen has more influence over decisions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Status: Unpublished
School/Department: York Business School
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/9427

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