Delegates from the Europarcs 2006 conference took place in site visits across the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in September 2006 to get an insight into the way rural communities deal with key conservation issues. The leading host for the conference was the Cotswolds Conservation Board which exists to conserve and enhance the Cotswolds AONB.

The theme for the conference was 'living, working landscapes' and delegates discussed the way that protected landscapes can be successfully managed to meet the increasingly diverse needs of people, conservation, tourism, rural industries, recreation and agriculture.

Martin Lane Director of the Cotswolds Conservation Board said:

"This is an opportunity for decision makers from across the European conservation sector to find out about the way that people live and work within protected landscapes in the UK. We hope that the examples that they see on their site visits to the Cotswolds inform their thinking and perhaps some of the decisions that they make in the future".

Delegates were offered the opportunity to visit a range of locations in the AONB and examine the various issues affecting the local landscape and communities. From exploring the cultural value of protected areas at Blenheim Palace to examining ways of ensuring that development fits with the objectives of protected landscapes in Northleach, the whole gamut of issues that affect AONBs in 2006 was discussed.

One of the site visits focused on the National Trust run Sherborne Estate. Delegates discussed ways in which the quality of life could be protected for rural communities in protected areas. The focus of the day was a tour around the 17th Century deer coursing grandstand, Lodge Park followed by a discussion with tenant farmers about the way that the trust had helped them to diversify and an examination of the challenges that they currently face.

The conference and further site visits were co-hosted by two other AONBs in Oxfordshire, the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs.

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