Funding concern for Shropshire's areas of natural beauty

The Shropshire Hills has been selected as one area of natural beauty to receive support from the Government, but officials have raised concerns about funding.

The Stiperstones is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Shropshire
The Stiperstones is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Shropshire

It comes after proposals were set out in the independent Landscapes Review two years ago, with the government now seeking to support Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks across the country.

The government has proposed legal changes to update the purposes of the chosen landscapes to include a greater focus on the recovery of nature as well as improved health and wellbeing for all parts of society.

Greater collaboration nationally will be encouraged by a new National Landscapes Partnership, which will also seek to unlock additional private sector funding.

Increasing the core funding from Defra for AONBs was a key recommendation of the review, but is one the government is not proposing to implement fully.

John Watkins, chief executive of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, said: “AONBs have a proven track record and a unique collaborative approach which helps to spread and scale best practice.

"Government funding for all 34 AONBs totals around £6 million per year, roughly the same as a single medium sized secondary school.

"An uplift in core funding is essential to secure the financial future for England’s AONBs and an upscaling of their proven work.

"Extending the collaborative working ethos of AONBs to a national partnership could be effective, but only part of the answer.

The Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership welcomed the government’s response to the Landscapes Review this week, but shared the concern about funding.

Alex Carson-Taylor, chair of the AONB Partnership, said: “Since the review was announced in 2018, expectations have run high about this once in a generation opportunity to build on the success of designated landscapes, by modernising their legal and operating framework and increasing their capacity.

"There is much to welcome in the government’s response, but we agree with the National Association for AONBs that more needs to be done on funding.

"We look forward to working with the Association, with Defra and with local partners to make the very most of this opportunity for the Shropshire Hills.”

Councillor Cecilia Motley Shropshire Council portfolio holder for communities, place, culture, leisure, tourism & transport, and vice chair of the AONB Partnership said:

“We welcome that the government’s response recognises that these landscapes are of national importance but are managed locally.

"Local authorities hold the statutory duties for AONBs, and updated national guidance will be welcomed.

"Council budgets are under tremendous pressure and to really enable AONBs to broaden the scope of their activities within our exceptional landscapes, central government will need to raise its own levels of contribution.”

Councillor Chris Turley for Telford & Wrekin Council said: “The local authorities work in partnership for the AONB and this makes sense.

"But the challenges of nature recovery and climate change are huge and there is much more that could be done with more resources.”

The Government’s response is accompanied by a 12-week consultation to seek views on some of the major proposed actions.

The Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership will be submitting its views and has encouraged members of the public to do the same.

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