- Natural England announces proposal to designate the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), alongside an ambitious new landscapes programme, following support by Eddisbury MP, Edward Timpson CBE.
- Environment Secretary sets out support for the independent Landscapes Review’s recommendations to improve nature recovery and public access in protected landscapes.
- New programme to support farmers and land managers to improve protected landscapes and create flourishing destinations for communities to enjoy.
Proposals for new protected landscapes and improving access to nature will be announced today (24 June 2021) by Environment Secretary George Eustice and Natural England.
Natural England will be considering the designation of two new AONBs—the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge and the Yorkshire Wolds; and the extension of two existing AONBs—Surrey Hills and the Chilterns.
Eddisbury MP, Edward Timpson CBE, supported the efforts of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge Trust in Westminster and Whitehall in pushing for this highly beneficial AONB designation for the Ridge.
DEFRA commissioned Julian Glover and an independent panel to consider how we might improve the management of our National Parks and AONBs. The major independent review called for radical action to make our protected landscapes greener, more beautiful and open to everyone.
Additionally, Natural England will be finding innovative ways to drive landscape recovery and bring nature and people closer together, focusing particularly on our most environmentally deprived areas.
The programme will focus on improving people’s quality of life, addressing inequalities in connection to the natural environment which have been well-evidenced through the Covid pandemic.
The Environment Secretary will set out Government plans to consult on proposals for National Parks and AONBs to work more closely and strategically together at a national level to boost job creation and access to the countryside, while retaining their local functions. Options to strengthen the status and support given to AONBs are also being considered alongside a potential re-naming of AONBs. The Government will consult on the proposals next year.
A new Farming in Protected Landscapes programme is also being launched, operated by National Parks and AONB bodies, and supported by Natural England, to help farmers and other land managers in England make improvements to the natural environment—the next step in the Government’s landmark plans for a renewed agriculture sector.
The programme will provide funding for one-off projects which allow farmers and land managers in protected landscapes to support nature recovery; mitigate the impacts of climate change; provide opportunities for people to enjoy and understand the landscape and its cultural heritage; and support nature-friendly and sustainable farm businesses.
Projects could include creating ponds or other wetland to support a variety of wildlife; conserving historic features on a farm, such as lime kilns or lead mining heritage; or even action to reduce carbon emissions or use of plastics on farms.
Eddisbury MP, Edward Timpson CBE, said:
"Running down the spine of Cheshire, the Sandstone Ridge has long been a treasured natural asset, with over a million visitors a year.
"As a regular Sandstone Trail walker myself, it’s exciting that—more than 60 years after it was first recommended as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty—the Ridge is being formally considered for such status.
"This has potential to not only protect and enhance its special environment, but also bring important investment along and around its route. I am proud to have been able to support the proposal to this stage, and will continue to do so!"
Andrew Hull, Chair of the Cheshire Sandstone Ridge Trust, said:
"This is a watershed moment in seeking to 'conserve, connect and inspire' current and future generations in understanding and caring for this unique landscape and its diverse habitats.
"Reaching this stage of the rigorous designation process was testimony to the hard work of many, and I am keen to thank all stakeholders for their commitment, motivation and overwhelming support in contributing to this long-term strategic ambition."
"I would like to emphasise that there will be much work ahead as the Sandstone Ridge Trust continues the journey to ultimate AONB designation."
Environment Secretary, the Rt Hon George Eustice MP, said:
“We have an opportunity to create a new chapter for our protected landscapes.
“The work that we are going to take forward will contribute to our commitment to protect 30 per cent of our land by 2030, and boost biodiversity, while designating more areas of the country for their natural beauty.
“Our Farming in Protected Landscapes programme will provide additional investment to allow farmers to work in partnership with our National Park Authorities and AONB teams to improve public access.”
Julian Glover, who led the review, said:
“Our national landscapes are the soul of England, beautiful, much-loved, and there for all of us, but they are also under pressure. We need to do a lot more for nature and more for people, too. Our report set out a plan for a brighter, greener future and I’m delighted that words are now being followed by action.”
Chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper, said:
“Today’s announcement signals an ambitious step forward in growing our family of precious national landscapes, as well as protecting and improving the ones we have.
“One thing that has become very apparent recently, and especially during the pandemic, is the enormous benefit people get from having access to beautiful nature-rich landscapes. These can, however, be hard for many people to reach, thereby raising the question of how more can be done to bring nature and people closer together. On this, we see huge opportunities arising from the establishment of the England Nature Recovery Network, of which wilder national landscapes will be a vital part.
“As Government’s statutory landscape adviser, we look forward to continuing to work closely with Government, designated landscape bodies and stakeholders to deliver more for and through England’s diverse landscapes.”
Today’s announcements will contribute to the Government’s commitment of protecting 30 per cent of our land by 2030, and boosting biodiversity, while taking forward the Review’s recommendation to designate more areas of the country.
A formal consultation response will be published later this year in 2021.