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Shropshire Hills among designated national landscapes to be strengthened by government

Two years on from the independent Landscapes Review led by Julian Glover, the Government are now taking forward many of the ambitious proposals set out in the Review to support AONBs and National Parks to deliver more for nature, climate, people and places.

The government proposes legal changes to update the purposes of designated landscapes to include a greater focus on recovery of nature as well as improved health and wellbeing for all parts of society. 

The government also seeks to strengthen the role that protected landscape bodies can play to support the shift in agriculture to new policies and land management schemes. The contribution of protected landscape bodies in sustainable tourism is also recognised, and they may be given a greater influence in planning decisions as statutory consultees.

Greater collaboration nationally will be encouraged by a new National Landscapes Partnership, which will also seek to unlock additional private sector funding.  Increasing the core funding from Defra for AONBs was a key recommendation of the review but is one the government is not proposing to implement fully.

John Watkins, Chief Executive of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty said “AONBs have a proven track record and a unique collaborative approach which helps to spread and scale best practice. Government funding for all 34 AONBs totals around £6m per year, roughly the same as a single medium sized secondary school. An uplift in core funding is essential to secure the financial future for England’s AONBs and an upscaling of their proven work. Extending the collaborative working ethos of AONBs to a national partnership could be effective, but only part of the answer.”

The Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership welcomed the government’s response to the Landscapes Review this week, but shares the concern about funding.  Chair of the AONB Partnership Alex Carson-Taylor commented “Since the review was announced in 2018, expectations have run high about this once in a generation opportunity to build on the success of designated landscapes, by modernising their legal and operating framework and increasing their capacity.  There is much to welcome in the government’s response, but we agree with the National Association for AONBs that more needs to be done on funding.  We look forward to working with the Association, with Defra and with local partners to make the very most of this opportunity for the Shropshire Hills.”

Cllr Cecilia Motley Shropshire Council Portfolio Holder for Communities, Place, Culture, Leisure, Tourism & Transport, and Vice Chair of the AONB Partnership said “We welcome that the government’s response recognises that these landscapes are of national importance but are managed locally.  Local authorities hold the statutory duties for AONBs, and updated national guidance will be welcomed.  Council budgets are under tremendous pressure and to really enable AONBs to broaden the scope of their activities within our exceptional landscapes, central government will need to raise its own levels of contribution.”

Cllr Chris Turley for Telford & Wrekin Council said, “The local authorities work in partnership for the AONB and this makes sense, but the challenges of nature recovery and climate change are huge and there is much more that could be done with more resources.”

The Government’s response is accompanied by a 12-week consultation to seek views on some of the major proposed actions.  The Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership will be submitting its views and we encourage members of the public to do the same. This is an opportunity for people to shape how protected landscapes will deliver benefits for people and nature for years to come.

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Published by Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership on