Mendip Hills AONB Partnership welcomes findings of Designated Landscapes Review

Wednesday 2nd October 2019

The Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership welcomes the findings of the Designated Landscapes Review. We are pleased that the Review team have recognised the value of the AONB designation and the hard work that AONB staff and members carry out to conserve and enhance these special areas.  We are also heartened that the Review team recognise that, given adequate resources, there is so much more we can deliver for nature and society.  We particularly welcome the recommendation that government provides the resources and policy framework to support local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty teams to do this.

The central proposition that AONBs are strengthened with new purposes, powers and resources, and renamed as National Landscapes is a powerful and fundamentally important step in ensuring the benefits of the AONB designation are optimised.

Currently funding of all AONBs in the country costs each taxpayer less than 20p per year. AONB teams and Partnerships have proved themselves time and again to be lithe organisations, capable of punching well above their weight. With increased resources and a supportive policy framework in place, the future for the nation’s most beloved areas looks bright.

Philip Hygate FRSA, Chairman of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty said:

“I am delighted the report recognises the immense value and potential of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and sets bold ambitions for their higher profile within the urgent imperatives of nature recovery and improving the health of the Nation.  The National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will work to ensure the Report is prioritised in the widest of policy contexts in the coming months and years. It is of the highest importance that the challenging but very positive messages of the Report are not lost sight of in the welter of pressures facing Government and Parliament.  Indeed, fulfilment of the Report’s recommendations offers an unequivocally decent and positive focus for public and political dialogue and an opportunity to reunite a divided Nation.”

Cllr Nigel Taylor, Chair of the Mendip Hills AONB Partnership said, ‘As Chair of the Partnership we’re extremely grateful to the Glover review panel for all their hard-work and for this timely review given the nation’s concern over climate change and the threat to our wildlife. A review of AONBs is long over due and here on Mendip we’ll be looking at the document as a way of recognising the role of the Partnership while reinvigorating it. Reading the review we find many sensible proposals that have a direct relevance to the Mendip Hills AONB. The document ranges from improving boundary reviews, to fundamental name changes and much forward thinking to ensure the relevance of the AONB designation for years to come. This should be recommended reading for all Local Authorities and our partners.’

AONB Partnerships already have the skills, networks and expertise in place to deliver; they also have the will, as evidenced by the Colchester Declaration made at their conference earlier this year. This saw AONBs collectively commit to specific ambitious, stretching targets designed to protect what remains and, crucially, recover what has been lost in our natural environment.  This builds on proven expertise in habitat restoration as evidenced by the small selection of 70 case studies in our Nature Recovery Solutions fact file.

We strongly welcome the assertion that there is a clear case for increased funding for AONBs. AONB Partnerships were only given their limited powers in the year 2000, fifty-one years after the act that brought them into existence.  Now is exactly the time to bring the ‘founding zeal’ to life.  We have the all energy, skills, ambition and strong partnerships needed to deliver, and we call on Westminster to provide us with the power and resources to enable us to do so. The full Designated Landscapes Review report can be found here.