The Glover review (1) – worth the wait

The much-awaited Glover review into protected landscapes was published on Saturday morning and is a serious, imaginative and important document.

The review is well worth a thorough read, and several re-reads (that’s what I have already done) but can be summarised in part by these two paragraphs from its summary;

Our country is changing fast. It is becoming more diverse. More urban. Much busier. New forms of farming, carbon emissions, the sprawl of housing, new technology and social shifts have changed the relationship between people and the countryside, and left nature and our climate in crisis.

The way we protect and improve our landscapes needs to change radically to respond to this. If their natural beauty is to be in a better condition 70 years from today, even better to look at, far more biodiverse, and alive with people from all backgrounds and parts of the country, they cannot carry on as they do now.

This is a review of the network (although they don’t act as a network) of 10 National Parks and 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England which was brought into being in 1949. The UK came late to the idea of National Parks compared with other nations, and our National Parks are nothing like those in most countries – they have far less clout, largely because public ownership of land in UK National Parks is tiny. Let’s acknowledge that they are also a diverse bunch of places from the Broads NP to the Isles of Scilly AONB and from the Isle of Wight AONB to the Northumberland NP.

To propose anything for the future of such a disparate range of locations would be a bit like suggesting the perfect way of life for 44 of your best friends and most-loved relatives – it’s difficult to capture the things that hit the spot.

Added to which, these are mostly farmed areas, with forestry, recreational shooting and nature conservation thrown in as other major land uses. What will farming look like after Brexit? It all depends… And it will ‘depend’ for quite a few more years unless, by some miracle, we decide to remain in the EU and then we will know more firmly where we are than under either a no-Deal Brexit or a some-sort-of-as-yet-undefined-Deal Brexit. Understandably this review doesn’t get into that area: unforunately it is an area that is crucial (not their fault).

Here are the 27 proposals from the report:

Proposal 1: National landscapes should have a renewed mission to recover and enhance nature, and be supported and held to account for delivery by a new National Landscapes Service

Proposal 2: The state of nature and natural capital in our national landscapes should be regularly and robustly assessed, informing the priorities for action

Proposal 3: Strengthened Management Plans should set clear priorities and actions for nature recovery including, but not limited to, wilder areas and the response to climate change (notably tree planting and peatland restoration). Their implementation must be backed up by stronger status in law

Proposal 4: National landscapes should form the backbone of Nature Recovery Networks – joining things up within and beyond their boundaries

Proposal 5: A central place for national landscapes in new Environmental Land Management Schemes

Proposal 6: A strengthened place for national landscapes in the planning system with AONBs given statutory consultee status, encouragement to develop local plans and changes to the National Planning Policy Framework

Proposal 7: A stronger mission to connect all people with our national landscapes, supported and held to account by the new National Landscapes Service

Proposal 8: A night under the stars in a national landscape for every child

Proposal 9: New long‑term programmes to increase the ethnic diversity of visitors

Proposal 10: Landscapes that cater for and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing

Proposal 11: Expanding volunteering in our national landscapes

Proposal 12: Better information and signs to guide visitors

Proposal 13: A ranger service in all our national landscapes, part of a national family

Proposal 14: National landscapes supported to become leaders in sustainable tourism

Proposal 15: Joining up with others to make the most of what we have, and bringing National Trails into the national landscapes family

Proposal 16: Consider expanding open access rights in national landscapes

Proposal 17: National landscapes working for vibrant communities

Proposal 18: A new National Landscapes Housing Association to build affordable homes

Proposal 19: A new approach to coordinating public transport piloted in the Lake District, and new, more sustainable ways of accessing national landscapes

Proposal 20: New designated landscapes and a new National Forest

Proposal 21: Welcoming new landscape approaches in cities and the coast, and a city park competition

Proposal 22: A better designations process

Proposal 23: Stronger purposes in law for our national landscapes

Proposal 24: AONBs strengthened with new purposes, powers and resources, renamed as National Landscapes

Proposal 25: A new National Landscapes Service bringing our 44 national landscapes together to achieve more than the sum of their parts

Proposal 26: Reformed governance to inspire and secure ambition in our national landscapes and better reflect society

Proposal 27: A new financial model – more money, more secure, more enterprising

I’d say the report is strong on vision, strong on people, weak on analysis, weak on practicalities and disappointing on nature. I’ll come back to some of this in more blog posts this week but I thoroughly recommend this report to all interested in nature and in landscape areas, and all those interested in a walk, cycle, run or canter in the countryside.

The vision painted in the report is an attractive one – not surprisingly everything is better in the future vision than it is in the disappointing present – with more wildlife, more people enjoying the landscape and wildlife beauty, more money from central government and everyone working together. But it’s all quite fuzzy and, of course, it’s not at all clear how to get to those sunlit uplands (and lowlands).

I suspect that, like me, you will find few things with which you will strongly disagree – I’m not sure there are any things with which I strongly disagree. There are some eyebrow-raising passages in the report but these are more quizzical moments than moments of parting company with the thrust of the report and its recommendations.

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10 Replies to “The Glover review (1) – worth the wait”

  1. i felt the report was quite strong on nature and landscape and people too. A breath of fresh air and one I hope will be turning point for our national landscapes. Next stop government response.

  2. I look forward to your following analysis, Mark. We all know the present set-up is not fit for purpose and, here in the Scottish Border country, we have TWO competing pitches for more of the same. ie. "let's attract more tourists and show them what a lovely place we have" not "let's critically examine the actual state of the landscape and rural economy and agree with stakeholders what is a properly sustainable plan for the long-term future"

    1. But at least some things are happening in the Borders. Look at Carrifran, Talla & Glenlude. Also maybe the Langholm moors will become community owned and DGS banned there.

  3. Hopefully I'll get the chance to look at the report in detail later on - clearly an important document!!! Sounds good though. I like the point about getting more people into national parks especially minority groups. I'm not in any meaningful way a member of a minority, but as a car less inhabitant of Scotland's central belt it's not exactly easy or cheap for me to get to either of our national parks up here, especially the Cairngorms - and most importantly the slightly wilder bits away from the more beaten path which are places like Balloch and Aviemore, hardly what can be called NP experiences. I've often wondered if it would be possible in the summer at least for special bus/coach services to be run from town and city centres taking people up to designated campsites in national parks. There would be return services too obviously. Such a service from Falkirk would be fantastic for me. The time, hassle and money it would take for me to get anywhere near Insh Marshes in the Cairgorms NP with public transport is eye watering, even if public transport was available. Being able to travel directly to and from the nearest, or relatively local campsite though would be an enormous step towards making Insh Marshes (great RSPB reserve now, potential future beaver home) etc a practical destination for me. Great for me, very good for the local economy and if this happened during the school holidays companies which usually run school buses could use this to fill the gap. Imagine a summer coach service from Birmingham to the Lake District or Peak District NPs hostels/camp sites? Being able to do this and bypass changing modes of transport and get directly to where you want to go should be a hell of a lot cheaper and less hassle. Having such a service could then make it a hell of a lot easier to encourage people from urban areas especially ethnic minorities to patronize NPs, efforts could be made to encourage groups to go to help make this a less intimidating experience which it could well be for going outside of their comfort zone.

  4. Hmmm ! As you say, many fine words - but I fear more of the same rather than anything very radical.

    For example, the natural Capital Committee has already put forward the proposal for 250,000 hectares of Community Forest close around our towns and cities - bringing the green lungs to the people on a day to day basis, not just for holidays. National Parks were created in an era when urban design 'protected' farming from the people next door - and conservation was sent off to the uplands because farming wasn't that bothered - a mind set that seems to have stuck despite changing times.

    Landscape and nature conservation are still starkly two quite different communities - that is where the real coming together is needed. In my experience National Parks have not only largely ignored nature conservation but have even failed to recognise how nature conservation can reinforce the landscape cased. As Derek Langslow showed many years ago now SSSIs within and outside National Parks aren't much different - and the only thing that has really changed since then is the effective elimination of the few remaining HH from English NPs.

    And then, of course, there is the big anomaly - Is there any discussion of it, I wonder ? - the New Forest - the one National Park which is largely nationally owned - and where massive biodiversity restoration over the past 20 years contrasts with most other protected areas. How about some real National Parks ? Maybe on people's doorsteps ?

  5. Agriculture post brexit? Well since brexiteers, which farmers overwhelmingly are, love using WW2 rhetoric, then we should be bring back an equivalent of the War Ag. The War Ag essentially nationalised farming in all but name, and had the power to kick farmers off their land without compensation if farmers did not do exactly what they were told, and they were given some very, very, very explicit instructions and micromanaged a lot. I think we should do that. It is what they voted for, so they can quit their bitching.

  6. I thought the nature bit was a bit weak too. Margaret Paren (who is the chair of the South Downs National Park and chair of National Parks England) was on Farming Today this morning (see here from about 07.33 It wasn't clear when this interview was recorded, so in fairness it may be that the response was to an early summary late last week, rather than the full report over the weekend. Although I'd be surprised if the English NPs hadn't seen a pre-publication copy. Anyway, I thought NPE's initial reaction was distinctly cautious, perhaps because it opens up a lot of questions for them, not least where the likely significant additional funding might come from. I do hope the English National Parks come forward with a comprehensive - and public - response to the Glover Report as soon as possible so we can all get a sense of their intended direction of travel.

  7. As you say Mark, it is very much “ God and Motherhood” stuff being very short on practical details. A number of the proposals could easily contradict or clash with each other when detail is added to them. Proposal 3 is about the only one that considers nature conservation but the statement about the strengthening the law in respect of nature conservation is welcome but again rather too vague.

  8. Proposal 18?? I don't like the idea of affordable homes being built in our national parks. Not unless they are highly climate proofed and tenants are required to work for and take care of the land. Do we want to wild to improve soil and sequestration or not.

  9. Will this report be in time to prevent AONB being built over - eg for applications for large developments of up to 500 houses on fields in the AONB near Cranbrook, Kent ?


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