AONB Unit 2022/23 Work Programme
We received a report regarding the proposed outline work plan for the AONB Unit during the forthcoming financial year, subject to confirmation of funding with DEFRA, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Welsh Government.
In doing so the following information was noted:
· The proposed Work Programme for the AONB Unit for 2022/2023 was presented in draft form as budgets for the AONB have yet to be confirmed. The Programme is ambitious but dependent on adequate funding and resources being available.
· New AONB core funding agreements are awaited from both DEFRA and Natural Resources Wales (NRW). Welsh Government also has yet to confirm allocations for the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) and Sustainable Landscapes Sustainable Places (SLSP) programme. Meanwhile, various project funding bids are being prepared.
· Dependant on funding, the AONB Unit may be able to expand slightly beyond eight full time equivalent (FTE) posts. However, currently two of those posts are vacant and in recruitment meaning capacity in the AONB Unit continues to be stretched.
· Consequently, only a draft Work Programme could be presented.
· Priorities included the potential expansion of the planning support role, shared jointly with the Malvern Hills AONB Partnership; the successful recruitment of the Farming in Protected Landscapes Officer to take over the running of the grant programme (in England) ; the successful recruitment of a new Community Links Officer to lead on the promotion and administration of grants through the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) and Herefordshire Community Foundation AONB Fund, and reinvigorate the AONB Volunteers and Youth Rangers; the development of nature recovery in the AONB and delivery of the Lower Wye Nature Networks project; the delivery of a further year of projects funded through the Welsh Government Sustainable Landscapes Sustainable Places (SLSP) programme; ongoing Green Infrastructure and Natural Flood Management projects, particularly those linked to improving water quality in the Wye; and continuing a range of existing activities and projects; while retaining enough flexibility to pursue new funding opportunities and develop new initiatives.
· The draft AONB Unit core budget as presented to the AONB Steering Group is £275,860 and additional funding programmes, grants and match funding is anticipated to exceed £650,000 levered into the AONB during the year.
Having received the report, the following points were noted:
· With regard to the health of the River Wye, the AONB office will be working with partners throughout the Wye Catchment regarding this matter within the resources and remit of the AONB.
· It is hoped that there will be enough resources to employ a part time Planning Officer. This would allow for fuller monitoring of planning applications within the AONB.
· The AONB office recently promoted the first Wales Dark Skies Week and has been promoting the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) star count.
· The AONB Manager informed the Joint Advisory Committee that he does not know the extent of the AONB Office’s resources yet for 2022/23. It is hoped that there will be sufficient uplift to employ at least a further part time post. A Farming and Protected Landscapes Officer is currently being recruited.
We resolved to endorse the draft AONB Unit Work Programme for 2022/2023.