Further review of Welsh National Park and AONB governance announced
Welsh Planning and Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant has announced a further review of the governance and purpose of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). This news came in after the devolved administration‘s publication of the report of the Independent Panel which has been examining the subject over the last 12 months.
That three-person panel chaired by Professor Terry Marsden produced a lengthy report for the Government which runs to more than 250 pages and proposed nearly 70 separate recommendations.
Now Sargeant has asked Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas, a leading member of the Welsh Assembly, to lead a so-called Future Landscapes Working Group, involving representatives of the National Parks, AONBs, interest groups, business, and local government which will consider the recommendations and assess their implications. This latest exercise will involve another report due next year.
The recommendations now under scrutiny include:
- Making no change to the name or legal status of National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Strengthening the support and delivery role of other bodies
- Creating a National Landscape Committee.
Marsden’s report was adamant that the existing national park authorities should retain their strategic planning policy and planning development control functions. It also argued for the retention and development of what it called “flexible” AONB management models.
The Panel also argued that Natural Resources Wales and local authorities should “have regard” to the statutory partnership plans which each National Park and AONB (collectively known as the National Landscapes of Wales) will have to draw-up.
The Panel recommended the application of the so-called Sandford Principle, which confirms the primacy of the conservation purpose, should be applied across all the designated landscapes.
Sargeant said: “The Panel have endorsed my view that a fresh approach to purposes and governance is long overdue, and I agree with their summary that this is necessary to better respond to increasingly complex environmental challenges, inequalities in well-being and health, and to deliver more vibrant rural communities.
“The report makes 69 recommendations covering a raft of proposals and observations on purposes, principles, vision, governance models, planning, and funding. The scale and scope of these recommendations is considerable, and further work is now needed to understand their potential benefit and their consequences.”