Agenda item

Review of Designated Landscapes in England


We received a report regarding the publication of the Landscapes Review of AONBs & National Parks in England.


In doing so, the following information was noted:


·          Review of Designated Landscapes (National Parks and AONBs) in England was launched by Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP last year with a small advisory panel chaired by Julian Glover. 


·          The ‘Landscapes Review’ final report was published on 21st September 2019 with 27 ‘Proposals’ for Government.


·          The Review identifies that AONBs should be strengthened, with increased funding, governance reform, new shared purposes with National Parks, and a greater voice on development.


·          The report references future designation of the Forest of Dean and also stakeholder proposals for the Herefordshire Marches.


·          The publication coincided with the ‘National moment’ by AONBs, including the poem ‘Fugitives’ by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, as part of the 70th Anniversary celebrations of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.


·          The Wye Valley River Festival is used as a case study in the Report.


·          It is believed that the Review has been favourably received by DEFRA and a formal Government response will be provided in due course next year.


·          The National Association for AONBs (NAAONB) has made an initial brief formal response.


Having received the report the following points were noted:


  • Encouraging access and enjoyment is not currently a statutory duty of AONBs, unlike National Parks.  The Wye Valley AONB Unit is involved in tourism and recreation issues depending on priorities, capacity and resources.  However, reaching out to more diverse communities and hard to reach groups can be expensive and time consuming.


  • Publicity is key.  The national press and television programmes such as Countryfile have made reference to the Wye Valley in a positive manner. More locally, the Wye Valley River Festival has been very successful in promoting the region.


  • In response to a question raised regarding bicycle friendly public transport provision in the Wye Valley area, it was noted that 15 to 20 years ago the Wye Valley AONB Partnership subsidised a Sunday bus service which had some cycle carriage capacity.  However, this was stopped when the service was taken over by a main bus service provider.


  • There is a need to pursue co-ordinated public transport further with strategic linkages being required across counties. Monmouthshire County Council’s Strategic Transport Group is looking to pursue cross border working. The Chair of Monmouthshire County Council’s Strategic Transport Group (also a member of the Joint Advisory Committee) extended an invitation for a member of the Joint Advisory Committee to join the Strategic Transport Group.


  • In response to a question raised regarding responding to climate change, the AONB Manager informed the Joint Advisory Committee that when responding to planning applications as part of the consultation process he recommends that photo voltaic panels be included on properties where appropriate.


  • It was noted that the Review is critical of the general lack of collaboration between the National Park and AONBs, although there are some notable exceptions.


  • It was suggested that local authorities tend not to have their own aspirations for AONBs although they have a duty of regard to the AONB and provide support for their AONB Units.


  • The Review argues that national landscapes have not always had the support within Whitehall. It was suggested that MPs should be lobbied to ensure appropriate support is provided.


  • The Review references future designation of the Forest of Dean and also stakeholder proposals for the Herefordshire Marches.


  • The Review expressed support for the strengthening of the Duty of Regard.  DEFRA is working on how to replace this.


  • It was noted that the Welsh Government Civil Servant leading on AONBs is familiar with the challenges regarding cross border working as they formerly worked on the Arriva Rail franchise. He is establishing a Welsh Government cross departmental Working Group to ensure that the workings of AONBs and National Parks are understood, including the cross border issues being faced.


We resolved:


(i)            to receive the report;


(ii)          that an item regarding transport collaboration be added to the agenda for the next meeting and that appropriate officers be invited to attend.


Supporting documents: