The report, written by a panel led by Julian Glover, contains ambitious proposals. It was published in September 2019 and the then environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, welcomed the findings. Today the environment secretary’s response is lacklustre, with no sense of urgency. The government says it will respond in full later this year, and consult on proposals to strengthen the status and support for the areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) next year.
Says our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘While we are glad that the government proposes to ‘enable more people from across society to benefit from access to England’s most famous natural landscapes’, and is launching a new Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, this is far short of what is needed. The access element of the new programme should be provided as a matter of course, throughout England, as part of the public-funded, post-Brexit Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS). It’s illogical to have a separate programme for funding access in the national parks and AONBs.
‘And what has happened about Glover’s recommendation that every child should enjoy a night under the stars in a national landscape, or that further open-access rights should be established there?’
It seems that most of the report has not yet been considered. The report recommends long-term programmes to increase the ethnic diversity of visitors. It advocates a new financial model for protected landscapes—more money, more secure and more enterprising. There are recommendations on transport and housing; with strengthened purposes in law for protected landscapes—and much else.
Says Kate: ‘It is vital that all government departments pledge to protect, improve and cherish our national landscapes instead of undermining them with road programmes, destruction of the planning system, and other damaging developments.
‘While this is only the initial response, it does not bode well for the government’s attitude to Glover’s ethos and recommendations. This announcement comes as the government refuses to insert targets for access in the Environment Bill, and has made little progress on the promised funding to improve access under ELMS.
‘We trust that government will see Glover’s recommendations as an opportunity to make a real difference for our protected landscapes. Ministers must recognise the immense contribution of national parks and AONBs to mitigating the climate crisis, and to providing places for enjoyment and refreshment for the public. It must invest in them because the public benefit they bring is phenomenal.
It is vital that we have some ambitious, far-reaching and effective proposals from government—and that it treats this as a matter of urgency.’