Wildlife and Countryside Link looks forward to the Government’s response to the Glover Landscape Review. In advance of the Government’s response, Link has laid out the ambition and reforms needed to ensure designated landscapes deliver their potential for nature, climate and people.
Our National Parks and AONBs provide many benefits for nature, climate and people, but large areas of our designated landscapes are not in as good condition for nature as they could be. These areas face growing pressures from infrastructure, housing, intensive land management, and commercial forestry. Improvements are needed for designated landscapes to help deliver Government promises such as to protect and effectively manage 30% of land for nature by 2030 (30x30), halt the decline of species by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. Several of Glover’s proposals would help deliver these improvements, but in some cases the Government will need to go further.
The role of designated landscapes should be strengthened with clear statutory purposes to contribute to tackling the nature and climate emergency and increase people’s connection with nature. These purposes should be complemented with the duties, powers, plans, monitoring, resources, and governance needed to deliver them.
To work better for nature, climate and people, the Government’s response to the Glover Review should include a commitment to amend the statutory purposes of designated landscapes to place a stronger emphasis on tackling the nature and climate emergency and on actively connecting all parts of society with these special places. Given the scale of the nature and climate emergency, the pursuit of other objectives should always support, and not harm, nature’s recovery.
The existing duty on all relevant bodies (including designated landscape bodies, Natural England, Forestry Commission, local authorities and utilities providers) to the statutory purposes of designated landscapes should be strengthened from ‘have regard’ to ‘further’ the amended statutory purposes of designated landscapes. In addition, all relevant bodies should report (e.g. through Management Plans) on how they are supporting the delivery of the statutory purposes.
Management Plans are important tools that designated landscape bodies have to help deliver for nature, climate and people. However, they must be strengthened to contain specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic and time-bound (SMART) targets and actions to tackle the nature and climate emergency and to connect all parts of society to designated landscapes. To ensure the delivery of the Management Plan, relevant bodies should be given a duty to support its development and implementation of the Management Plan and report on how they are achieving this, and designated landscape bodies should be required to coordinate and report on its overall implementation. Designated landscape bodies should have a formal role in Local Nature Recovery Strategies as an essential stakeholder. Management Plans should take account of the priorities identified in the Local Nature Recovery Strategies and there should be direct read across between the two. Regular monitoring and reporting will be key to evaluating delivery of the Management Plan’s SMART targets and designated landscapes’ contributions towards 30x30 and other environmental ambitions.
Designated landscapes must have the sufficient resources and robust governance to deliver their purposes and Management Plans. The Government should commit to increased and long-term funding for designated landscape bodies and delivery partners. For AONBs, where the greatest need for additional resources lies, the Glover proposal to double their modest funding from £6.7 million to £13.4 million should be implemented without further delay. This must be done by increasing the overall funding available for designated landscapes to ensure it does not lead to any reduction in funding available for National Parks. Those governing National Parks and AONBs should have significant experience, expertise and passion across their statutory purposes, especially to address the nature and climate emergency. National support, oversight and scrutiny should be provided to facilitate a race to the top on achieving targets and delivering transformative action in designated landscapes for nature, climate and people. To strengthen their voice in the planning system, AONBs should be given statutory consultee status (which National Park Authorities already have.)
Within designated landscapes and across the countryside, the ambition and delivery of the Government’s land use and land management policies will be crucial to tackling the nature and climate emergency. The proposals coming forward in the Nature Green Paper for site protections must strengthen, improve and expand the protected site network, to create bigger, better and more joined-up spaces for nature to allow habitats and wildlife to thrive. The Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme must be ambitious and sufficiently resourced to drive good land management for nature, climate and people in designated landscapes and across the countryside. Only those sections of designated landscapes (rather than their entirety) that are well-managed and protected for nature and are in good or improving ecological condition, as demonstrated by regular monitoring, should be counted towards the 30x30 target.
Link hopes the Government’s response to the Glover Review will be published soon, after over two years since the Glover Review was first published. Given the scale of the challenge of the nature and climate emergency, we need swift and ambitious strengthening of designated landscapes to ensure they are up to the challenge and can help recover nature and tackle climate change.
Emma Clarke is Policy and Information Coordinator at Wildlife and Countryside Link.
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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