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The Cotswolds – a new National Park?

 

In 2018, Julian Glover began leading the Designated Landscapes Review, which was commissioned by the government in response to the 25 year Environment Plan.

Glover intends to publish a full report in the autumn.

Glover and his panel of six colleagues invited everyone to share their views around designated landscapes. 2,500 detailed submissions were received – and these were from organisations and individuals. We submitted our own responses, and published these on our site as a Position Statement and a set of FAQs.  The panel visited every national park in England, and in July 2019 had been to almost every national park in Scotland, as well as almost all the designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and many unprotected landscapes.

We posted a link to the interim findings letter from Julian Glover, sent to Michael Gove, in an earlier post. We were encouraged by the interim findings – which described the nation’s protected landscapes as not having “been given the tools, the funding and the direction to do the job”. Glover and his panel describe an erosion of “national zeal” for the founding mission for landscape protection. Their view is that there is a need to “reignite the fire and vision which brought this system into being in 1949. We need our finest landscapes to be places of natural beauty which look up and outwards to the nation they serve.”

The panel have acknowledged that more must be done for nature and beauty, and more for the people who live in and visit our protected landscapes. And, more should be done to help welcome those less familiar with the countryside.

The final report from the panel will provide views on new designations for National Parks. In the Conservation Board’s 2018 – 2023 Management Plan, we state that one of our four ambitions is to promote the case for the Cotswolds being designated as England’s next National Park. This booklet explores the case for a possible new Cotswolds National Park…


New Secretary of State appointees join the Board

Defra has confirmed three new Secretary of State appointees to the Cotswold Conservation Board, who are all set to take up their roles with immediate effect.

Dom Morris runs his family arable farm of around 1,100 acres near Cirencester, and has a wealth of experience as a military consultant and advisor. Dominic’s career has focused upon advising senior decision makers, civil servants, and military commanders on strategy and change management. Dom also has an interest in welfare reform – cutting his teeth running Prince’s Trust and Millennium Volunteers programmes for young people in Gloucestershire.

Graham Hopkins is a Chartered Engineer with a career spanning forty years. His last corporate role was as Safety, Technical and Engineering Director for Network Rail, and as part of that, he chaired the Rail Industry Technical Leadership Group. Before that, he spent many years with Rolls-Royce plc, including as Director of Engineering and Technology for Defence Engines. Graham has lived in the Cotswolds for over 15 years and is passionate about the Cotswold landscape and communities.

Brendan Costelloe is originally from Cheltenham, and has been working in planning and conservation for the last 15 years. His experience spans working in local government, in private practice, for the RSPB, and for the British Ecological Society. At the British Ecological Society, he works in the policy team which monitors the development of legislation and policies relevant to biodiversity and conservation.

Director of the Cotswolds Conservation Board, Martin Lane, said, “We’re delighted to welcome Dom, Graham, and Brendan to the Conservation Board, they have a wealth of skills and experience to apply to conserving and enhancing the Cotswolds and enabling people to explore and enjoy the AONB.”


Landscapes Review – interim update from Julian Glover

This month, Julian Glover has written to Michael Gove to detail interim findings from the Landscapes Review. This review was to consider the next steps for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty sites (AONBs) in England.

The letters can be viewed online here. 

We’re pleased to see this review moving along, and look forward to the complete report, which will be published in the autumn of 2019.


Celebrating a successful year of Sustainable Development Funding!

Applications to the 2019/20 Sustainable Development Fund offered by the Cotswold Conservation Board asked applicants to focus on projects which focused on education and young people across the Cotswolds AONB. A sum of £16,970 has been awarded to the three successful project applications…

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum was awarded a grant of £7,200 to construct a roundhouse building to use as a training venue for their community outreach programme. The programme works with both school pupils and community groups, and offers courses from bushcraft skills and outdoor campfires with youth groups, to natural arts and craft projects with disadvantaged adults, and outreach sessions for those unable to visit. The outreach programme aims to .make a positive difference on peoples’ wellbeing.

The Royal Agricultural University was awarded a grant of £8,000 for a physical and educational hub. The hub will include an introductory workshop, field visits, practical investigations, and the dissemination of conclusions following project completion.

Stroud District Council (Cowle) Museum Trust has been awarded £1,770 to produce a Living Limestone event – which will centre on the construction of a dry stone wall. The event and the building of the wall will provide learning resources for subsequent incorporation into the museum’s displays.

The funded projects were successful because they demonstrated ambitions to provide educational experiences and services for local communities and young people; and because they had forward-looking approaches which would help communities continue to learn in the future.

 


Cotswolds Conservation Board plays key role in stopping harmful development

The Cotswolds Conservation Board recently successfully demonstrated the role it plays in protecting and enhancing the special qualities of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). A proposed major housing development in the AONB has been dismissed at appeal.  The proposed development, by CALA Homes, would have involved the construction of 68 dwellings in the village of Stonesfield, West Oxfordshire.  However, the planning inspector who led the public inquiry into the appeal concluded that the potential benefits of the scheme do not outweigh the highest status of protection that is given to AONBs.

The Cotswolds Conservation Board played a key role in the public inquiry, working in partnership with Stonesfield Parish Council and Sustainable Stonesfield to oppose the development. There were a number of reasons that the Board took on this role.  In particular, it considered that the appeal would be an important test of the West Oxfordshire Local Plan.

The Local Plan requires such housing development proposals in the Cotswolds AONB to demonstrate convincing evidence of needs specific to a particular settlement.  The planning inspector concluded that the CALA Homes proposal did not meet these stringent requirements.  As such, the proposal did not amount to the exceptional circumstances that would be required for planning permission to be granted.

The Board was also concerned about the adverse impact of the proposed development on the Cotswolds AONB. The planning inspector highlighted similar concerns and found that the development would cause significant harm to the character and appearance of the AONB.

The Board recognises the need to provide affordable housing in the Cotswolds AONB. However, as demonstrated by this appeal decision, housing development proposals in the AONB must provide convincing evidence of need arising within the AONB, down to the level of the individual settlement.  Even where there is exceptional need, great weight must still be given to conserving and enhancing the landscape and scenic beauty of the AONB.


Cotswolds Conservation Board continues ambitious meadow restoration project

PRESS RELEASE  11/06/19

Cotswolds Conservation Board continues ambitious meadow restoration project

Harvey Sherwood and Anna Field, from the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project being run by the Cotswolds Conservation Board, have announced two free guided wildflower meadow walks this summer to help get people more familiar with the project. Open to everyone, including families, the walks will be held on 15th June and 6th July.

On the 15th June, climb on board for a tractor ride and guided wildflower walk across the limestone grassland at Whittington Lodge Farm, and learn more about this fantastic habitat and the Glorious Cotswold Grasslands project. Families are very welcome and plant hunt sheets will be provided for children. The walk will be up to 1 mile across rough grassland, with tea and biscuits afterwards. The walk on 6th July will be to celebrate National Meadows Day, and will be a guided 2 mile wildflower walk across the limestone grassland at Ampney Downs.

Curiously named flowers which might be spotted on the walks include Cotswold pennycress, pasque flower, oxeye daisy, common bird’s-foot trefoil, cowslip, and lady’s bedstraw. Grasslands and the flowers found on them support a host of wildlife too – including rare butterflies like the Chalkhill Blue and orange-flecked Duke of Burgundy, as well as insects, bats, birds, and small mammals.

Both walks are free, but booking is recommended. Please contact Harvey at harvey.sherwood@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk or on 07841 663 603 to book a place.

A staggering 97% of species-rich grassland in England and Wales has been lost since the 1930s. Factors like urban development, and changes in farming practice and land management, mean that the Jurassic limestone grassland coverage in the Cotswolds has shrunk from 40% to just 1.5%. These disappearing grasslands are precious though – a typical patch can contain over 100 species of flowering plants.

A grant of over £200,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, boosted by a private donation, and fundraising from the 2018 Cotswolds AONB Hare Trail, has allowed the Cotswolds Conservation Board to launch Glorious Cotswold Grasslands – a project which aims to conserve, restore and create wildflower-rich limestone grasslands across the Cotswolds AONB. The intention is to create the largest network of wildflower-rich Jurassic limestone grassland in the country. To break the cycle faced by many projects of ‘boom and bust’ due to the temporary nature of funding, this project aims to become self-financing over the delivery period. During the project, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities available and other ways to get involved and help.

ENDS 

Notes to editors:

  • Please contact Alana Hopkins at hopkins@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk / 01451 862 003 for further information or interview opportunities.
  • Image shown courtesy of Ian Boyd
  • For more information about Glorious Cotswold Grasslands, contact Harvey Sherwood at sherwood@cotswoldsaob.org.uk or Anna Field at anna.field@cotswoldsaonb.org.uk
  • The Cotswolds was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966 in recognition of its rich, diverse and high quality landscape. www.cotswoldsaonb.org.uk
  • The Cotswolds AONB is looked after by the Cotswolds Conservation Board – an independent organisation established in 2004 which has 37 members – 15 nominated by local authorities, 8 by parish councils and 14 appointed by the Secretary of State.
  • The Cotswolds is the third largest protected landscape in England after the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks and represents 10% of the total AONB area in the UK. It covers 2,038 square kilometres (790 square miles), stretching from Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the north, through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, down to Bath and Wiltshire in the south.
  • The land management position statements are for use by local authorities, government agencies, land agents, advisers, land managers, farmers and the public. They, along with the planning and transport position statements are available on the Cotswolds Conservation Board’s website.
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), along with National Parks, are considered to be the most special landscapes in the country and belong to an international family of protected areas.  There are 38 AONBs in England and Wales, and a further eight in Northern Ireland.  For further details, visit: www.landscapesforlife.org.uk. For details of the 15 National Parks in England and Wales visit: www.nationalparks.gov.uk