Here is the Government’s response to the consultation
All of England’s landscapes are important, but National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are our most iconic and beautiful places. Based on their geology and history, these characteristic landscapes contain swathes of ancient woodland, deep peat and grassland, and many of our most threatened species such as the red squirrel, curlew and water vole. Protected landscapes represent our shared heritage and national identity, and are home to many of our rural communities and businesses. They also support our nation’s health and wellbeing as unique places to experience natural beauty and tranquillity.
Since our statutory system of protected landscapes was first established by Parliament in 1949, our society and the challenges it faces has changed. We must address climate change, biodiversity loss and increasing public health issues such as mental health and obesity. At the same time, our understanding of the value of the natural environment has vastly improved, particularly the public services it provides. That is why the government commissioned the Landscapes Review.
Reflecting on all these changes and the comprehensive findings of the review, we feel this is a moment to redefine the role that protected landscapes should play in today’s society.
Our vision for protected landscapes is:
‘A coherent national network of beautiful, nature-rich spaces that all parts of society can easily access and enjoy. Protected landscapes will support thriving local communities and economies, improve our public health and wellbeing, drive forward nature recovery, and build our resilience to climate change.’
The review represents an exciting new chapter in the history of our nation’s most special places. The document sets out the government’s response to the findings of the review and our proposed approach to achieving this vision for protected landscapes. It will involve changes to the way that we work together to manage and protect these places to ensure future generations inherit our protected landscapes in a better state than we found them.
Nature and climate
The Prime Minister has committed to protect 30% of UK land for nature by 2030 (30 by 30), setting out our intention and ambition to deliver domestically on the 30 by 30 global goal we are advocating for under the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Despite being only one quarter of land cover, protected landscapes are home to nearly half of all priority habitats in England, including many of our most important sites for nature. Achieving 30 by 30 will rely on improvements in how these areas are protected and managed for nature recovery, as set out in this response to the review and the Nature Recovery Green Paper.
Natural England has set out an ambitious new landscape designation programme, helping us to implement Proposals 20-22. This includes considering the creation of two new AONBs in the Yorkshire Wolds and Cheshire Sandstone Ridge, and extensions to the Surrey Hills and Chilterns AONBs. The new programme, which includes undertaking an All-England Assessment, is exploring new approaches to improve landscapes for people and nature, particularly in and around towns and cities. It will enable a more collaborative process to designate new National Parks and AONBs.
We have launched the Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) programme to help our lead partners forge new or stronger relationships with farmers to deliver projects that support nature recovery, mitigate climate change, improve access, and support sustainable farm businesses. The programme is part of Defra’s Agricultural Transition Plan and should help shape the potential role that protected landscapes could have in the agricultural transition.
We have published our Net Zero Strategy which sets our ambition to use our land more effectively to tackle climate change, in which protected landscapes have a key role. The England Trees Action Plan launched in May 2021 committed to treble tree planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament. This objective is supported by the Nature for Climate Fund worth more than £750 million across this parliament. As part of this, we are working with landowners, local authorities, and local communities to fund multiple large afforestation projects contributing to the aim of Proposal 20 that local people should be supported to create more wooded, accessible landscapes. This includes at least three new community forests located in areas of social and tree canopy deprivation and funding for planting in the North and Midlands through the Northern Forest and National Forest Company. The complementary England Peat Action Plan set out our government’s long-term vision for the management, protection and restoration of our peatlands and committed to immediately fund at least 35,000 ha of peatland restoration by 2025. This includes a £2.7 million investment through the Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme into the Great North Bog, a landscape approach to restoration across nearly 7,000km2 of upland peat in the protected landscapes of northern England.
The 2021 Spending Review also announced a new government target to leverage at least £500 million a year for nature’s recovery by 2027 and more than £1 billion a year by 2030. Designated landscapes have a major role to play in achieving, and benefitting from, this target.
Our lead partners have collectively pledged to address climate change and biodiversity loss at a national level. National Parks England (NPE) has set clear targets for climate mitigation and nature recovery through their delivery plans. Led by the National Association for AONBs, AONB teams are working to deliver the Colchester Declaration, which includes targets for habitat restoration and species recovery.