Sir Martin Doughty died on Wednesday following a 3 year battle against cancer, at the age of 59. Sir Martin has been known for his work campaigning for public access to the countryside and Britain’s coasts, conservation work and his leadership of Derbyshire County Council. Secretary of Defra, Hilary Benn, and Poul Christensen, Deputy Chair at Natural England, paid tribute to Sir Martin and the work he has done throughout his career.
In January 2006, the University of Derby awarded Sir Martin an honorary degree for his contributions to the environment. At the time, he was due to begin his role as chairman of Natural England, the amalgamation of the Rural Development Service, English Nature, and some sections of the Countryside Agency, and advised that Natural England would be responsible for protecting the landscape and promoting rural tourism, and commented that the environment had not tended to be a priority for the government, stating that ‘Governments and local authorities focus on the economy and may ignore the fact there are huge numbers of jobs created by looking after a healthy environment’. It is interesting perhaps, that now three years on these words could be echoed to the government, especially in a period of economic slow down and recession.
Sir Martin commented before taking up the seat as leader of Natural England that, “With regard to climate change, we may not yet be at the point of no return, but we are not many years off it. It will be decades, rather than centuries.” Now that green issues and agendas are at the forefront of many a discussion, let’s hope the advice of Sir Martin is never forgotten.