MOUNT Stewart could be consumed by the sea within the next 100 years according to a shock climate change warning from the National Trust.
A delegation from the conservation body met with councillors recently, calling on them to place climate resilience and adaptation at the heart of its future planning policies.
Informing the council of their current efforts towards reaching net zero by 2030, Mount Stewart’s head gardener, Mike Buffin, and property curator, Neill Watts, spelled out the Trust’s priority policies in Northern Ireland with regards to combatting the key issue of climate change.
“I think we are all aware of the impact of climate change on our lives today and it’s probably more relevant to me as head gardener at Mount Stewart because it is the National Trust’s most threatened garden,” Mr Buffin revealed.
“No other National Trust garden will be consumed by the coastline within the next few hundred years and we’ve been working ways to create and move and mitigate some of those impacts.”
Mr Watts said the Trust feels that the threats from climate change and nature biodiversity depletion remain as immediate and important as ever and it’s important to lay the groundwork for a brighter future which addresses the joint threats of climate change and nature’s decline,”
He said the Trust aimed to ‘tackle inequalities of access to green spaces and heritage and culture’ and further wanted to ‘see more land and coastal management for future’.
Mr Watts called for better joined-up working across the Ards and North Down Council to ensure biodiversity and climate are integrated into planning and other policy decisions and to embed natural capital assessments across decision-making and report on its impact,” Neil continued.
Answering a query by independent alderman Wesley Adair, Trust expert, Victoria Magreehan restated that ‘by far the greatest challenge’ facing the Trust was climate change.
“Close to my heart is the work we do around coasts and certainly in Northern Ireland there are lots of vulnerable areas, and it’s at the forefront of the work we are doing and learning to adapt to the changes that climate change is bringing,” she said.
Addressing the council’s input she said more resourcing is needed for biodiversity officers to monitor and track changes locally, which would help local authorities lead the way.
In terms of planning she said the Trust needed ‘decision making, and policies that allow climate adaptation and climate-informed decision making to take place’. She said that had to be carried out mindful of the predicted future weather patterns and other related trends of the future, which she said is not being done so far.
With the Climate Act having been passed in the Assembly, she said the biggest necessity is ‘climate adaptation and how do we deal with the problems that are already locked in’.
“As a local authority you can try and get ahead of the game and think what will it mean locally for us; what are the real changes that scientists are telling us that are coming?
She pointed to Belfast City Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council as among those which are leading in terms of climate resilience initiatives.
DUP alderman Robert Adair mentioned local initiatives like Nugent’s Wood in Portaferry and the car park at Greyabbey which received funding from the Department for Rural Development to ‘open up the areas’ for the community to enjoy, and asked if further similar initiatives were in the pipeline by the Trust ‘to further enhance the facilities we have in this borough’.
It was confirmed that Glastry claypits – a series of ponds surrounded by a nature reserve, near Ballyhalbert – were being considered for further development, as well as a number of others throughout the Peninsula, which were not named individually.