Could the Kent Downs and High Weald be among our next national parks?
The intriguing possibility has been raised by Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s launch of a review into the role of the country’s national parks and AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
Mr Gove wrote in the weekend’s Sunday Telegraph that the “the time is right” for such a reappraisal, almost 70 years after the creation of our first national parks.
The review, which was committed to in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan published in January, will look at the possibility of expanding England’s network of national parks and AONBs.
It has been widely suggested that some of England’s 34 AONBs could essentially be upgraded and added to our 10 national parks. Our county has two AONBs: the Kent Downs and the High Weald, the latter shared with Sussex and Surrey.
Population growth, changes in technology and habitat decline were cited by Mr Gove as reasons to “look afresh at these landscapes”.
Hilary Newport, CPRE Kent director, said: “I’m delighted that the review could lead to a strengthening of protection for our natural areas.
“However, it would also be good to see proper protection of the designated landscapes that we already have, notably in Kent our two AONBs.
“Further, it would be encouraging if the review of our planning system followed sustainable principles that had protection of our most treasured landscapes at their core.”
Emma Marrington, CPRE senior rural policy campaigner, added: “CPRE warmly welcomes the appointment of an independent panel to carry out this potentially game-changing review.
“National parks and AONBs are of huge importance to the nation; two-thirds of people in England live within 30 minutes of a national park or AONB, with visitors contributing more than £6 billion each year to the local economy.
“The review will also consider how national parks and AONBs deliver their responsibilities and are financed – these areas offer great value for money, with public spending on these landscapes less than £1 per person each year.
“It is also important that existing national parks and AONBs are well resourced and able to deliver their responsibilities effectively.
“This includes by ensuring they continue to have the highest level of planning protection in the revised national planning framework.”
Wednesday, May 30, 2018