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Landscapes review – National Parks and AONBs

A Review to consider the next steps for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty sites (AONBs) in England.

Quotes from the interim findings of the landscapes review by Julian Glover MP for the Secretary of State for the Environment.

“It is a year since I began leading the Designated Landscapes Review, which the government commissioned in response to the 25-year Environment Plan.

What we have found
The message from all this work has been vigorous and clear. We should not be satisfied with what we have at the moment. It falls short of what can be achieved, what the people of our country want and what the government says it expects in the 25-year plan for the environment.

Some of this failure comes from the fact that our protected landscapes have not been given the tools, the funding and the direction to do the job we should now expect of them. I want to praise the commitment of those who work to protect our landscapes today. Everywhere I’ve been I’ve seen energy, enthusiasm and examples of success.

Supporting schools, youth ranger schemes, farm clusters, joint working with all sorts of organisations, tourism, planning and design, backing local businesses, coping with the complexities of local and central government – things like this happen every day, not much thanks is given for them and yet much of it is done well, for relatively small sums.

But all this impressive effort is not achieving anything like as much as it could.

Why? Because the national zeal of the founding mission for landscape protection has been eroded. There is a culture which has neither kept pace with changes in our society nor responded with vigour to the decline in the diversity of the natural environment.

We think that AONBs should be strengthened, with increased funding, new purposes and a greater voice on development. We have been impressed by what they often achieve now through partnership working

The 2010 Lawton Review and the most recent 2016 State of Nature Report are explicit about the crisis of nature and what needs to be done to bring about a recovery. We agree and we want to see designated landscapes lead the response.

Our system of landscape protection has been hampered by having little influence over the things which have done most harm to nature, including a system of farming subsidies which, although it has improved, rewarded intensification regardless of the consequences.

But we would also like to see a change in internal culture to do more on this. As the National Trust put it, in its submission to our call for evidence, “We believe that National Parks and AONBs are not currently delivering on their duty in relation to nature”.

We would like to see designated landscapes become leaders in Nature Recovery Networks.

Our landscapes are largely farmed landscapes and we think a partnership with farming which promotes nature recovery is needed. Our designated landscapes should be bold about the potential of subsidy reform, with the forthcoming Environmental Land Management System. We think all protected landscapes should be priorities for ELMs payments delivering nature recovery through farming.

We would like to see them develop landscape scale, long term strategies to assess and improve natural capital in the areas they oversee as it is now, and as it could become – working with landowners through local ELMs plans.

In almost every place we visited we heard similar warnings about the challenge communities face. Residents are getting older. Local communities see housing costs climb while not much affordable housing is built to add to the supply. We will make a specific proposal in our final report to for a proactive way for landscapes to address the shortage of social housing.

We believe there is a very strong case for increasing funding to AONBs. We will make proposals in our final review.

We have been asked to give our view on the potential for new designations. We will set this out in our final report”

The final report is expected this autumn. Watch out for a link.

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