Our local National Landscapes have a renewed mission

Dedham Vale and Suffolk Coast & Heaths Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) respond positively to the release of the national landscapes review and look forward to putting the proposals of the renewed mission in place.

A major independent review calls for bold action to reignite the founding spirit of our great protected landscapes movement, in the biggest shakeup of the running of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty since they were founded 70 years ago.

“We want our national landscapes to work together with big ambitions so they are happier, healthier, greener, more beautiful and open to everyone.” So starts the review document released by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who commissioned the review. Full review and press release can be seen here.

The independent Landscape Review was led by journalist Julian Glover, and was published to coincide with the start of Landscapes for Life Week on Saturday 21 September 2019.

The Glover Review recommendations will now be considered by Government, and Dedham Vale and Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONBs look forward to the Government giving full support of the proposals and providing the necessary legislation and financial support for them to be implemented.

In total there are 27 Proposals in the Review, of which the Government highlights these key recommendations:

• a new National Landscapes Service to act as a unified body for England’s 44 national landscapes, including 10 National Parks and 34 AONBs 
• creating a 1,000 strong ranger service to be the “friendly face” of our national parks and help engage schools and communities 
• giving every school pupil the opportunity to spend a night “under the stars” in these special landscapes to help more children to connect with nature 
• new protections, responsibilities, titles and funding for AONBs to help them be greener, more beautiful and more welcoming to the public 
• a transformed approach to recover and enhance nature, working with farmers and conservation groups to reverse years of decline and bring landscapes alive 
• backing for a new National Park in the Chilterns and a new National Forest, taking in areas such as Sherwood Forest, as part of a drive to increase woodland spaces to fight climate change

In addition, the Essex/Suffolk AONBs and the National Network of AONBs are very welcoming of proposals to:

• establish Nature Recovery Networks (Proposal 4); 
• have a ‘strengthened place … in the planning system with AONBs given statutory consultee status… and changes to National Planning Policy Framework’ (Proposal 6);
• embrace the proposal for a stronger mission to ‘connect all people with our national landscapes’ (Proposal 7) and introduce new long-term programmes ‘that cater for and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing’ (Proposal 10); 
• for AONBs to work with ‘new purposes, powers and resources’ (proposal 24) with a ‘reformed governance to inspire and secure ambition in our national landscapes and better reflect society’ (Proposal 26); and 
• to strengthen local Management Plans with the recommended ‘stronger status in law’ (Proposal 3);

In fact the Landscapes for Life Conference, hosted by the local team in July 2019 at the University of Essex, set in motion the adoption of The Colchester Declaration, that addresses many of the proposals: https://landscapesforlife.org.uk/news/latest-news.

Julian Glover writes in his Preface to the Review: 
“The experience has produced two strong emotions. First, gratitude that so much of so great a quality is out there, saved in part by the efforts of those who fought for our National Parks and AONBs and work in them now. Second, fear that these places are fragile, that nature in them is in crisis as elsewhere, that communities are changing and that many do not know these places. The aim of this review is to respect the former while helping with the latter.”

Nigel Chapman, Chair of the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, says: “The Review and Proposals will, I trust, set in motion a long held desire of mine for improved access into our landscapes for the wide diversity of people living in Essex and Suffolk today. This will support improvements to the health and wellbeing of us all. We urge the Government to follow up the recommendations with legislation and financial support as soon as possible.”

David Wood, Chair of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is: “delighted with the review”. He adds that: “All the Proposals are welcome and will only strengthen how AONBs locally and nationally step up to take on increased responsibility for our outstanding and beautiful landscapes. The recommendations mean that at long last we are getting the recognition we fully deserve”.

By Cathy Smith on September 23rd, 2019