AONbs and national parks are under review
Cornwall AONB Partnership Manager, Colette Beckham explains…
The government’s 25 Year Environment Plan was published by DEFRA in January 2018. Chapter two of the plan outlines how government intends to ‘restore nature and enhance the beauty of landscapes’, with a key action to undertake a review of designated landscapes, namely National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Review came forward relatively swiftly in the summer of 2018, headed up by Julian Glover, Associate Editor of the Evening Standard, supported by a panel of experts. Cornwall was delighted to be the first port of call for Julian as he embarked on a series of visits to AONBs and National Parks to scope the issues.
In October, Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP and Julian Glover invited the public to respond to a Call for Evidence. This survey, now closed, asked a broad range of questions, trying to understand if our protected landscapes are fit for 21st century environmental challenges, particularly the recovery of nature. The review considered our designations in terms of meeting the needs of communities and whether housing and transport in protected landscapes could be improved? The review also looked at resourcing of our nationally treasured landscapes and asked if more landscapes need to be designated?
During autumn 2018, the Cornwall AONB Partnership undertook a series of sessions and workshops in order to compile its evidence and with good discussion and co-operation, the Partnership arrived at a form of words that received broad consensus. Incorporated within the evidence was the results of an 8-week public consultation by the AONB Unit to seek the public’s views of the performance of Cornwall’s protected landscape.
So what did we say?
The full evidence from the Cornwall AONB Partnership can be downloaded here
The Cornwall AONB Partnership examined a number of options for future models of governance for the Partnership and resourcing issues. We looked at current issues affecting the conservation and enhancement of the AONB and we examined opportunities going forward.
The main point put forward are this.
1) Management of the protected landscape needs to reflect the current policy of having ‘the highest status of protection’ in planning. There needs to be much improved outcomes for the protected landscape from the planning system.
2) There is a huge opportunity in the development of the new agri-environment scheme to be developed beyond Brexit. The AONB Management Plans are a great opportunity to work with farmers to set deliverable objectives for public goods outcomes such as the restoration of nature, which should be a key priority of the scheme. The government should do all it can to maintain the profitability of our family farms in Cornwall, so critical to maintaining the landscape.
3) Protected landscapes contain some of the UK’s most biodiverse landscapes in the country, yet we’re not faring much better than non-designated areas in terms of the condition of these habitats. Protected landscapes can be used as a focus for the nature recovery areas outlined in the 25-Year Plan and could lead the way in the restoration of nature and ecosystems.
4) Cornwall has specific pressures on it generated by the huge influx of visitors we experience each year. This puts transport infrastructure, our access networks and habitats under great pressure. We need the resources to manage the adverse impacts of tourism and the resources to positively manage the AONB as a destination, particularly around the coast.
5) Because of the unique pressures on the coast and the unique disparate geography of the AONB, the Cornwall AONB Partnership has called for Bodmin Moor to become a stand alone designation. Larger in it own right that many other AONBs, the moor has very specific management requirements that should be addressed separately to the Cornwall Coast as another designation. This would mean dedicated resources for the coast and the moor and a separate Management Plan for each.
6) In considering modes of governance, The Cornwall AONB Partnership has not asked for a National Park for Cornwall, rather we’d like a consultation on a new model, which is not an AONB, but reflects more accurately the purposes and highest status of protection of the current AONB. The new model should have a legal basis for governance and become a statutory consultee for AONB planning.
We’ve also highlighted three particular areas where we would like to see an extension of the AONB boundary and asked for the process for this to be made much shorter and less resource intensive.
7) Finally, we have highlighted to the Glover Review the relatively small resource flowing into Cornwall for protected landscape management. We have called for a level of resourcing that represents fairness for Cornwall in comparison with other rural areas. We think the level of resources needs to take account of some of the particular challenges faced by Cornwall’s protected landscape, outlined above. We also think that the level of resources needs to more realistically reflect the ambition and breadth of responsibility going forward.
So what next for the Review? At the moment, Julian Glover and his panel are sifting through the huge mountain of submissions submitted in response to the Call for Evidence. This spring, the intention is to invite some further verbal evidence and then to begin to form opinions and recommendations to government. It is currently expected that the review will publish its report in the autumn of 2019, so watch this space.