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Welsh ministers mull over new legislation for national parks and AONBs

Words: Roger Milne
Snowdonia National Park / iStock-108128394

The Welsh Government has announced that it is considering legal changes to the landscape protection regimes in place for national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

This follows the publication of a review (external link) of these designated areas by the Future Landscapes Working Group, chaired by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas.

Under consideration by ministers is whether greater weight should be given to the importance of these areas and their ecosystems in decision-making and whether governance arrangements should evolve to reflect local circumstances, rather than the current one-size-fits-all system.  

The group’s report said designated landscapes should be the leaders of the sustainable management of natural resources in their areas and emphasises the importance of joint working to achieve this.

The report proposed that “the development of a ‘place planning’ approach may be a means of meeting the need for innovative, place-based collaboration that addresses economic and environmental challenges”.

“The concept of place planning acknowledges that resources and needs differ from area to area. Place plans can represent a cultural shift, enabling appropriate development that supports national, local and community objectives for well-being," it said.

“The idea is to empower communities to enhance their influence over development sites, local distinctiveness, new green economy ideas and community infrastructure. This will be a community-led approach characterised by greater collaboration between authorities and communities, a better understanding of community needs and responsive delivery.

“Such an approach is consistent with the existing and emerging frameworks of local development plans, designated landscape management plans and area statements and is an opportunity to inform and influence their content leading to whole place plans.”

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said: “The basic principle guiding our work is seeing and understanding the role of designated landscapes not as separate excluded areas, but as a distinctive part which could contribute to good practise for the rest of our country’s landscape.”

Cabinet environment secretary Lesley Griffiths said: “Wales’s landscape is a huge part of our identity and an important national asset. It attracts tourism, outdoor recreation and local employment. It delivers benefits to our health and well-being and has been identified as having huge potential for developing greener energy solutions.”

Image credit | iStock