On Saturday 15th January 2022, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) issued a formal response to the Landscapes Review led by Julian Glover and published in autumn 2019. The review looked at England’s protected landscapes and sought to identify ways in which they could be revitalised and brought into the 21st century. The report argued that more must be done for nature and natural beauty, for the people who live in and visit our landscapes, and to introduce those who aren’t familiar with the countryside to get to know it. The report said that our national landscapes are for everyone and, in the Cotswolds, we believe in that too – wholeheartedly.
We are pleased that the long-awaited response from Government about the review has been issued. Defra now plans a 12 week consultation in which protected landscapes, other interested organisations, and members of the public will be encouraged to submit their feedback. We will also be attending Defra-hosted workshops with eagerness, and look forward to hearing the views of our fellow protected landscapes, and those working across them. The intention to strengthen what AONBs can do, and deliver, is one we support. We all have strong foundations of success to work from, but time is running out for nature and the environment – we must act now to make positive changes for everyone.
We are pleased to see that Government has identified the need and value in strengthening AONBs in order to deliver for both nature and people.
Brendan McCarthy, Chairman of the Cotswolds National Landscape Board, says, “We have a strong Cotswolds National Landscape team in place, and a wealth of expertise across our partner organisations. Further increased funding and resources would allow us to unlock the potential of the ambitions described in the Landscapes Review. Although Government has said that there is limited scope to increase core grants by the scale suggested in the review, we sincerely hope that Government continues to make meaningful increases to our overall funding in future. These increases will allow us to better realise the vision that we all have for the Cotswolds.”
One of the Landscape Review’s recommendations was a renaming of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) to National Landscapes. We implemented this in 2020 with a rebrand to Cotswolds National Landscape, and we are encouraged to see that this change will now, very likely, be rolled out across all other AONBs. This recommendation symbolises a more unified approach to how we work for people and nature as a collective presence of landscapes in the UK. In addition, we look forward to seeing how a progressive national partnership of National Landscapes – in which national parks, AONBs, Natural England, and the new National Trails charity – will be given more opportunity to work together to strengthen that collective offering. We look forward to exploring how the detail of this collaborative working will develop.
We are pleased that Government has acknowledged the importance of developing the statutory purposes and remit of AONBs to bring them into the 21st century – and that it has recognised the meaningful change it will make if those are expanded to include tackling climate change, helping nature recovery, and providing for people and society. Government has indicated that this is a priority and, alongside its ambitious and tough environmental targets, we feel that the expansion of our statutory purposes will allow us to do much more to meet these targets and to continue the vital role protected landscapes have to play for wildlife, people, and the nation as a whole.
Andy Parsons, Chief Executive of Cotswolds National Landscape team, says, “Among the many positives in Government’s response, we especially applaud the concept of supporting and rewarding farmers – they are an essential part of our economy and landscape, and should always be recognised as such. In the Cotswolds, we have made fantastic progress in allocating significant funding of around £500,000 to farmers and land owners/managers through the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme. This has been within the first six months of a three year programme, and we look forward to seeing the creative and considered ways in which people continue to apply to the programme.”
Finally, we welcome the emphasis on people and society – the countryside and our protected landscapes offer health and wellbeing benefits for everyone, which has been especially evident through the pandemic. We are ever-grateful to our band of Cotswold Voluntary Wardens, whose numbers have grown through the pandemic as people sought to be outside and in company. Volunteers – wardens, project volunteers, and others are the lifeblood of our work and must also be supported in their efforts. We hope that increased support and funding for the delivery of this public health work would give us opportunities to help more and more people enjoy – and look after – the countryside.
Have your say
The consultation will run for 12 weeks from today, closing on 9th April 2022. The consultation is open to everyone, and we encourage members of the public to get involved. This is the first major review of protected landscapes since they were first created over 70 years ago. This is a significant opportunity for people to shape how protected landscapes will deliver benefits for years to come.