Gloucestershire Campaign to Protect Rural England

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AONB Status for the Forest of Dean

Friday, 19 August 2011 14:26

bluebells in the Forest of Dean bluebells in the Forest of Dean Photo: © Rob Colley

CPRE is campaigning for designation of the Forest of Dean as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  The area is nationally renowned but has never been formally recognised through designation as a protected landscape.  There is a long history of moves to secure AONB status.

The Forest of Dean is an outstanding part of England under any measure.  It has a unique cultural heritage, and a diverse landscape and biodiversity of high quality.  It has long been a popular area for recreation with the state forest becoming England’s first National Forest Park as long ago as 1938.

The issue is an appropriate mechanism to ensure that the area is planned as managed as an entity which would safeguard its exceptional heritage features, while allowing appropriate development to meet community needs.  CPRE argues that AONB designation would provide that mechanism.  It would have the full support of Forest of Dean District Council.

The area was recommended for national protection in the reports to Government after the second world war which led to the system of National Parks and AONBs.  232 square miles of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley were identified as meriting protection. The Wye Valley was designated an AONB in 1971 but the Forest of Dean was left out as the view was that the area formed a distinct landscape separate from the Wye Valley and that designation was not necessary as the Forestry Commission had adequate powers for meeting amenity and recreation needs under 1968 Countryside Act - but this completely disregarded the landscape merits of the non-afforested parts and the need to consider the area as a whole.

Campaigning for designation has continued ever since, but events have always conspired to delay the process.  Responsibility for AONBs now rests with Natural England.  Natural England has developed a designations strategy.  This includes strict criteria for taking forward any boundary reviews of National Parks and AONBs and for considering potential new designations.  We understand that the Forest of Dean is in a long list of potential areas for review. 

We will continue to campaign for early action on this important issue and have produced a brochure setting out the case for designation - see download below.

See the In depth section of this topic for a fuller history of this “unfinished business.”

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