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We have written to Welsh Assembly Members to urge them to speak in the Senedd debate on the review of Wales’s designated landscapes, the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). Members are to debate the report Future Landscapes, Delivering for Wales, on Tuesday 6 June.
The society is concerned that the review could undermine the foundations on which Wales’s National Parks and AONBs stand.
These special areas are the jewels in Wales’s crown, of immense value for their natural beauty and the inspiration and refreshment they offer to the people of Wales and beyond. The legislation which set them up, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, has stood the test of time.
This review appears to ignore the core purposes and aims of National Parks and AONBs, to conserve the natural beauty of the area and, in the case of National Parks, to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities. These purposes are not mentioned. Nor is the vital Sandford principle, that conservation prevails when there is irreconcilable conflict—this is vital as a last resort when inappropriate tourism developments are proposed (which we fear are all too likely).
The review claims to take as its starting-point the excellent Marsden Report published in 2015, National landscapes: realising their potential. This report, by Professor Terry Marsden, John Lloyd Jones and Dr Ruth Williams, was produced over a period of a year, with detailed examination of evidence and witnesses.
Their 69 recommendations are within the spirit of the 1949 Act, and they propose the retention and improvement of the purposes as well as of the Sandford Principle, and to strengthen the duty of public bodies to ‘contribute to’ (rather than merely ‘have regard to’) the purposes of the designated landscapes. Marsden’s recommendations chime with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
The society has asked Assembly Members to urge the Welsh Government to:
1 defend the proper protection and management of, and resources for, the National Parks and AONBs;
2 ensure that conservation and quiet enjoyment of the special qualities of the designated areas remain central to their purposes;
3 ensure that the Sandford principle is retained to secure their protection from inappropriate development;
4 hold a full public consultation before making any changes to the purposes of National Parks or AONBs;
5 revisit the Marsden Report and implement these recommendations rather than the vague and woolly landscapes review.
In Wales there are five AONBs: Anglesey, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, the Wye Valley, Gower and Llŷn; and three national parks: Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia.