Over the past year I along with panel members Dr Ruth Williams and John Lloyd Jones have been working for the Minister for Natural Resources to undertake an independent review of the Designated Landscapes of Wales. The Minister wants to “‘ensure that our designated landscapes are best equipped to meet current and future challenges while building upon their internationally recognised status”.
We were tasked with creating a visionary and lasting approach to enable these nationally important areas to meet the radically different challenges and conditions compared to when they were first established in the post-war era. The fact that they are still there and valued by many is testament to the vision and innovation displayed by their founders of that period.
The final report presents the findings and recommendations of the review, including recommendations associated with the nature of the Designations and their Purposes and Duties; and reviewed governance arrangements, planning functions and effective representation and accountability.
The report sets out a series of interconnected recommendations including;
- Important changes to the Statutory Purposes and Duties of designated landscapes in Wales – so there is one new set of three interlocking purposes and duties across both designations: the Conservation purpose, the Human Well-Being purpose and the Sustainable Resource Management purpose.
- Together the 8 areas should be treated as, and work together as: ‘The National Landscapes of Wales’.
- The names of ‘National Park’ and ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ should be retained.
- A new governance framework to help ‘realise their potential’ to deliver national priorities locally, including a new ‘National Landscapes Partnership Board’ chaired by a Minister and a light-touch ‘National Landscapes of Wales Committee’ (deliberately not a new QUANGO) for the 8 areas to work together as a family.
- They should be empowered to deliver the Welsh Government’s ‘Green Growth’ agenda, joining exceptional landscapes and sustainable development.
- The National Park Authorities should retain their land use planning function, and the AONB bodies should be statutory consultees on significant planning applications.
- Create a new category of National Park Authority member, with a quarter of the Authority being representatives of the local interest appointed via open competition. Thus the proportion of County Councillors would reduce from two thirds to half and representatives of the national interest appointed by Welsh Government would reduce from one third to a quarter of the Authority.
- Change the name of the AONB body from the usual Joint Advisory Committee to ‘AONB Delivery Committee’ which should include at least one Cabinet Member from each constituent local authority, at least two representatives of the national interest appointed by Welsh Government via open competition, and at least two representatives of the local interest appointed via open competition by the rest of the members.
- Diversity of members on the National Park Authorities and AONB Delivery Committees should be ensured by following best practice in the open recruitment process for the national and local representatives.
In terms of next steps I’m pleased at the news that Dafydd Ellis Thomas has been appointed to chair the Future Landscape Working Group who will be exploring the recommendations of the review further.
The review of designated landscapes in Wales, final report is available on the Welsh Government Website: