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.https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/833163/landscapes-review-final-report.pdf
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 enterprisinghttps://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/833163/landscapes-review-final-report.pdf
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.