Agenda item

AONB Unit 2022/23 Work programme report


We received a report regarding the finalised AONB Unit work programme for this financial year, following confirmation of funding from DEFRA, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Welsh Government.


In doing so, the following information was noted:


·          The proposed Wye Valley AONB Unit Work Programme for 2022/2023 was presented in draft and endorsed at the last Joint Advisory Committee meeting, due to budgets for the AONB not having been confirmed.


·          New AONB core funding allocations have been offered by DEFRA and Welsh Government for 2022-2025 and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for 2022-2024. Welsh Government has also confirmed allocations for the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) and Sustainable Landscapes Sustainable Places (SLSP) programme for 2022-2025.


·          Various project funding bids have also been confirmed covering this financial year.


·          The new Community Links Officer and the Farming in Protected Landscapes Officer have been recruited and both start in the coming weeks.


·          The medium term funding has also enabled consolidation of the Lower Wye Projects Officer and Lower Wye Nature Recovery Officer posts. The shared AONB Planning Officer with the Malvern Hills AONB Partnership is also being proceeded. This will take the AONB Unit up to 7.3 full time equivalent (FTE) staff.


·          The finalised Wye Valley AONB Unit Work Programme for 2022/2023 includes an estimated percentage of each staff member’s time on each work programme activity.  Activities are also assessed for impacts of any potential on-going implications from Covid-19.


·          The AONB Unit operating budget for 2022/23 is £342,540 with an additional £1.1million of project funding, delegated grants and leveraged match funding during the year.  


·          This enables an ambitious work programme focused on the delivery of the AONB Management Plan and the conservation and enhancement of the AONB.


Having received the report, the following points were noted:


·         The names / contact details of the AONB Unit staff would be made available to JAC members.


·         The Wye Valley AONB website should outline the objectives of the AONB Management Plan.


·         The citizen’s charter could be on a separate webpage, in a simpler format, away from the AONB Management Plan.


·         The AONB Unit should produce a more regular and accessible newsletter outlining achievements and key information.


·         The AONB Development Officer’s role, along with the AONB Manager, is to develop projects and undertake fundraising.  However, due to staff shortages in recent months the AONB Unit has been under resourced. It is anticipated that the AONB Unit will be fully resourced again by the autumn of 2022.


·         There are several undergrounding schemes currently with Western Power waiting to be progressed.  An update report will be brought to the Committee at the next meeting in November 2022.


·         The Joint Advisory Committee undertakes the scrutiny role for the AONB Unit over and above the Technical Officers’ Working Party and the AONB Steering Group.    However, it is also the role of each of the local authorities within the AONB to address this matter via their own scrutiny processes.


·         A governance review of the AONB processes had been undertaken in 2018 with no significant deficiencies having been identified.


·         The AONB Manager, with the Malvern Hills AONB Manager, is looking to appoint a joint Planning Officer with a view to assessing planning applications that impact both AONBs.


We resolved to endorse the finalised Wye Valley AONB Unit Work Programme for 2022/2023.


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