Fringe Box



Letter: Name Change – Something to Like, Something to Worry About

Published on: 27 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 27 Nov, 2023

From Ramsey Nagaty

chair of the Guildford Greenbelt Group

In response to: Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are Rebranded

There are 46 designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales and the government has pressurised their boards to adopt the name change to “National Landscapes”.

Along with the new branding will come some changes, many to be applauded but some do raise concerns.

National Landscapes are to form a coherent national network of beautiful, nature-rich spaces that all parts of society can easily access and enjoy. Protected landscapes will support thriving local communities and economies, improve our public health and wellbeing, drive forward nature recovery, and build our resilience to climate change

We are told the title National Landscape does not remove or replace the legal definition of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in law, but is a simpler common name without a complicated acronym.

When the name clearly describes it why change it? I understand Westminster is providing £3,000 to each area to cover the cost of the changes (new website design, new stationery, new signs etc) a total of £138,000 nationally

Whilst the government suggests that National Landscapes opinions on planning developments proposed within their designated areas will have a stronger weight within the planning system and indicate the possibility of “Statutory Consultee” status, these benefits are as yet to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, the government is suggesting the composition of the board for each National Landscape should comprise experts and business nominees with the chair appointed by the Secretary of State.

There will be pressure to develop strategic partnerships with a focus on commercial partners, support local economies, and encourage sustainable tourism.

The government says it recognises that rangers are fundamental to enhancing and harnessing the benefits that protected landscapes offer and it will seek ways to increase the number of rangers engaging with people in protected landscapes.

I do not believe Surrey Hills has a single ranger presently and nowhere is there reference to additional, firm funding. The introduction of on-the-spot fines for visitors not respecting the countryside are proposed.  The restriction of off-road driving has been raised but is seen as something to enable in due course. Muddled thinking by the government.

On the plus side, there is talk of improving the natural environment, increasing biodiversity, habitat restoration and species recovery. Working with Landowners under the Farming in Protected Landscapes scheme.

So lots to like and lots to be concerned about. Unfortunately, it is too late to have your say – the consultation has closed!

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