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Our submission on the Government Response to the Landscapes Review Consultation

Friday 29 April 2022

The Landscapes Review or ‘Glover Review’, published in September 2019, provided a once in a generation opportunity to understand and improve the vital role of Protected Landscapes in England. The Chilterns Conservation Board welcomed its conclusions and, in January this year, was pleased to see publication of the Government’s response to the Review. We particularly welcomed Defra Minister, Richard Benyon, emphasising the important role of Protected Landscapes in addressing many of the challenges and opportunities currently facing society. 

However, while we welcome the many positive proposals in the government’s response to the Landscapes Review, especially proposals to strengthen AONB and Conservation Board purposes and powers, we expressed our view that the response does not set out the ambitious, transformational change that Julian Glover and his team envisaged. We also believe that the response fails to match the government’s own ambition for nature, climate and people.  

In particular, the government’s response fails to properly address the single most important issue underpinning the future success of the Protected Landscapes network - for AONB teams and Conservation Boards to be properly resourced.   

Here is a summary of our response:

  • Proposal 24 of the Landscapes Review - that AONBs be ‘strengthened with new purposes, powers and resources’ is key to realising the government’s ambition that its proposals will ‘rise to the challenge before us and leave our protected landscapes in a better condition for future generations’.
  • Any review of the purposes, powers and resources of Protected Landscapes in the 21st century must recognise that these places are critical components of the nation’s economic, social and environmental infrastructure - a fact sharply revealed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Protected Landscapes are essential for people’s physical and mental health and well-being, with further benefits arising from their special qualities, character and ecosystem services they provide. Such infrastructure requires cherishing through careful and positive management and planning.
  • While we welcome the many positive proposals in the government’s response to the Landscapes Review, especially proposals to strengthen AONB and Conservation Board purposes and powers, it is our view that the response does not set out the ambitious, transformational change that Julian Glover and his team envisaged and fails to match the government’s own ambition for nature, climate and people.
  • The single most important issue underpinning the future success of Protected Landscapes, and ensuring delivery of the government’s ambitions, is for AONB teams and Conservation Boards to be properly resourced. We are concerned that the government’s proposed package of measures will not fully achieve Proposal 24 and, as a result, does not offer a secure future for England’s 34 AONBs.
  • We recommend that the government doubles AONB budgets over this Parliament (three years). A dynamic and progressive funding formula and package of measures should reflect both the government’s ambition and the future needs of society and of these special landscapes.

The disparity in funding between AONB and National Parks is illustrated below.  

In 2013/14 the Government commissioned a review of the resourcing of AONBs and 
National Parks. At that time Defra allocated £61.6m to AONBs and National Parks. However, only 16% (£6.7m) was directed towards the 65% of land that is designated AONB, while 84% (£54.9m) was directed towards the 35% of land designated National Park. The figures are illustrated below. 

 

The chronic under-funding of AONBs continues to be of huge concern and, while the government has recently committed to increase AONB funding, the small (15%) uplift is not in line with Proposal 24 in the Landscapes Review - that AONBs’ total funding be doubled from the current £6.7m to £13.4m. 

To conclude, the resourcing disparity between AONB teams and National Parks Authorities remains unresolved and must be given the urgent attention that it deserves. In the meantime, the CCB will continue to work with Defra, Natural England, the National Association for AONBs and the wider family of Protected Landscapes to help ensure that the government realises its ambition to leave our Protected Landscapes in a better condition for future generations. 

Read our full response here

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