On Wednesday 13th September 2023, the Defra Secretary of State tabled a Written Ministerial Statement setting out a package of measures to support nature recovery in Protected Landscapes. The plans were also announced in the House of Lords by Lord Benyon, which can be seen at Parliamentlive.tv here. Defra also published a press release.
The package includes a commitment to new legislation through an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill at Third Reading (scheduled for 21 September) which will enhance National Park and AONB Management Plans by placing a stronger requirement on partners to contribute to their delivery.
The government will also shortly publish its response to the Landscapes Review consultation. Cannock Chase AONB Partnership responded to the consultation in 2022.
The statement also announces funding for the new Protected Landscapes Partnership involving the National Association for AONBs, National Parks England, National Trails UK and Natural England, which will deliver projects and programmes on nature recovery and widening access to nature.
The announcement also confirms an extension to the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme (FiPL), with funding for a fourth year to March 2025, and refers to the positive impact of Defra’s Access for All programme, which has already enabled the Chilterns Conservation Board and other Protected Landscapes to improve access to the countryside for people from all ages, backgrounds and abilities.
The Statement also confirmed the imminent publication of Defra’s new Outcomes Framework, which will define the contribution that Protected Landscapes should make to national targets. These are intended to guide local decision-making and prioritisation and represent a step forward in achieving the government’s global goal to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030.
Wildlife and Countryside Link have drafted this briefing to give context to what the amendment will mean.
Cannock Chase AONB welcomes the government’s announcement, as the measures will give AONBs and National Parks the tools they need to better deliver nature recovery. We are looking forward to seeing further announcements, including the government’s full response to the Landscapes Review.
21 September 2023: update
Following today’s Third Reading in the House of Lords, the government’s amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – to enhance AONB and National Park Management Plans – was passed. The published amendment is here and Earl Howe’s speech on the amendment can be viewed on parliament.tv here.
In his speech, Lord Howe set out how the amendment will enhance the Management Plans of Protected Landscapes – National Parks and AONBs – by bolstering the contribution of partners to help deliver them, ensuring better outcomes for people and nature. He stated that, as home to some of our most beautiful and iconic places, Protected Landscapes are crucial delivery partners who are at heart of work to unleash rural prosperity and create a network of beautiful, nature rich spaces that can be enjoyed by all parts of society.
Lord Howe explained that the government has amended individual acts to strengthen the duty on relevant authorities to contribute to delivery of the purposes of Protected Landscapes and creating a power to make regulations. He further explained that the Secretary of State now has the power to bring forward these regulations and said the government is committed to doing so in a timely manner.