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2.9.0 Climate Change

Cheddar reservoir © Mendip Hills AONB Unit

The Climate Change Act 2008 aims to ensure that the net UK carbon account for all six Kyoto greenhouse gases for the year 2050 is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline, to avoid dangerous climate change. The National Planning Policy Framework Section 10 sees planning playing a key role in securing radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Under climate change the Mendip Hills are likely to get warmer; summers will continue to get hotter and drier and winters will continue to get milder and wetter with inevitable exceptions.

2.9.1 Climate change is likely to result in periods of heavy rain that may cause more frequent flood events from surface runoff, increased flooding of settlements at the foot of the hills, rock fall, soil erosion and associated impacts on water quality and also on tourism due to closure of tourist caves and road closure as seen in 2013.

2.9.2 Increased storminess, drought and prevalence of pest and diseases, for example Oak decline or dieback, may result in damage or loss of ancient woodlands and mature, ancient and veteran trees, especially parkland trees.

2.9.3 Climate change poses particular threats to the historic environment. Intense rainfall causes erosion of archaeological sites and increased extremes of soaking and drying heighten risk of ground subsidence and accelerate the decay of stone work. Changes in vegetation patterns may cover and damage archaeological remains and leave others exposed and desiccated.

2.9.4 Mitigating climate change through development of renewable energy and new build is likely to present challenges to conserving landscape character. Whilst every building should strive to reduce its carbon footprint, mitigation should not be at the expense of the surrounding landscape and traditional buildings. The embodied energy contained within historic buildings should also be acknowledged in any energy efficient proposals.

2.9.5 Changes to seasonal temperature and rainfall could begin to change tree productivity. Tree provenance of native species will become more important.

2.9.6 Increased carbon dioxide and a longer growing season could potentially lead to double cropping with impacts on soil condition due to increased cultivation. There may be potential for growing different crops suited to a warmer climate.

2.9.7 Increasing occurrences of droughts would lead to increases in water demand for crop growth, business and domestic use, and drying out and erosion of soils.

2.9.8 Species migration and loss of small or isolated habitats and populations are likely. Composition and productivity of habitats will change and require management.

2.9.9 The Environment Agency  using their own data, and data supplied by Met Office and water companies, measure, monitor and report on rainfall, water in rivers, water stored in aquifers and reservoirs, how dry soils and outlook for river flow and groundwater. The Met Office provides a wealth of information on climate.

2.9.10 Climate change will potentially impact on all aspects of the Mendip Hills AONB.