Sir Martin Doughty, the father of modern conservation and founding Chair of Natural England, died of cancer on 4th March 2009, aged 59.
Martin’s passion and clarity of purpose were apparent in his conviction that everyone should have the right to enjoy the beauty of the natural world. In this respect, he followed in his father’s footsteps. Harold Doughty was one of the legendary Manchester Ramblers who left New Mills on April Sunday in 1932, for a mass trespass on Kinder Scout, a forbidden moor near Edale in the Peak District.
Martin always said that if it wasn’t for the bravery and direct action of the Manchester Ramblers, people would not now enjoy the network of national parks provided by the 1949 National Parks and Access the Countryside Act, nor the right to roam that followed in 2000.
Following a career as a lecturer in Environmental Management at Sheffield Hallam University, Martin, from Derbyshire, developed his expertise and interest in nature conservation alongside landscape and access work as Chair of the Peak District National Park Authority.
He held a wide range of key roles in the public and voluntary sectors, including Leader of Derbyshire County Council from 1992 until 2001. Martin was a Board Member for the Countryside Agency (1999 – 2005) and Chair of English Nature before being appointed as Chair of Natural England, a position he held from October 2006 until his death on 4 March 2009.
He was knighted in 2001 for services to local government in Derbyshire and he received Honorary Doctorates from Sheffield Hallam University in 2002, Cranfield University in 2005 and Derby University in 2006.
Sir Martin held office in a number of organisations:
Chair - Torr Vale Mill BP Trust
Vice President - Peak & Northern Footpaths Society and the Arkwright Society
Patron - IEEM and Creswell Heritage Trust
Fellow - Royal Society of Arts
Member - CIWEM, BBC Rural Affairs Committee, Labour Party, RSPB and National Trust, New Mills, Heritage Centre Management Committee and Green Alliance
The Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett MP who was the Environment Minister who commissioned The Haskins Report which led to the creation of Natural England. "I have known Martin for many years since he was leader of Derbyshire County Council. He was a delightful and very hard working person who had earned huge respect across all of the many and diverse groups with whom he worked. His is a tremendous loss."
The Rt. Hon. Alun Michael MP who was the Rural Affairs Minister when the Right to Roam Act came in. “I was devastated to hear of the death of Sir Martin Doughty who has been one of the outstanding public servants of his generation making a significant contribution at national, regional and local level to local government, to the national parks movement and to the natural heritage of our countryside. He was a personal friend and I enjoyed his wise counsel at its best during my days as a Minister when we walked the hills in his beloved Peak District. He loved nature and the mountains not just for themselves but because of their value to people. He was passionate about engaging young people with all aspects of sustainable development and about improving access to the countryside. He was passionate too about social justice. As a Labour leader, as a conservationist, as a human being and as good friend he will be sadly missed – but his memory should remain with us as a model for public service.”