Gloucestershire Campaign to Protect Rural England

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Is lack of funding dashing hopes of AONB and National Park designations?

Monday, 26 March 2018 13:26

26 March 2018

 

CPRE Gloucestershire welcomes a new report looking at the future of our natural environment and needs of rural communities. This report,The countryside at a crossroads: Is the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 still fit for purpose?from the House of Lords Select Committee, makes a series of recommendations to ensure that the objectives of this legislation are met, including the role of Government Departments and agencies.

The report highlights some concerns that CPRE Gloucestershire has already identified. ‘We have been campaigning for many years for the Forest of Dean to be designated as a AONB. Lack of resources within Natural England has been one of the reasons for frustrating these previous attempts. This report confirms our long-standing view that Natural England requires adequate funding to carry out its functions’, comments CPRE Gloucestershire Chairman, Professor Patricia Broadfoot. ‘There are also plans to encourage debate about the possible designation of the Cotswolds as a National Park. Without the necessary funding and support at Natural England, this discussion will have no foreseeable future’, continues Patricia. 

CPRE endorses many of the recommendations, in particular those highlighting the need for adequate funding to deliver the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan and to improve Natural England’s role in the planning system and the protection of our landscapes.

Emma Marrington, Senior Rural Policy Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: ‘We welcome the Committee’s report and agree that more must be done to ensure that the needs of rural communities are championed. Cuts to Natural England’s budget have reduced its effectiveness and we share the concern that it is not playing the full role it should in the planning system and in protecting our precious landscapes. It is vital that Natural England is a strong voice to promote access to the countryside and to protect and enhance our precious landscapes.

‘While there is definitely a need to raise the profile of rural issues, we do not think it would be helpful for ‘rural affairs’ to become part of the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Instead the Government should ensure that Defra can be a stronger champion for the countryside.’

The impact of reduced protection for our protected landscapes is highlighted by CPRE Research which found unprecedented levels of housing development in our AONBs, with at least a five-fold increase in the amount of land approved for development since 2012. The report also touches on the threat to rural affordable housing. CPRE wants to see the Government doing more to meet housing needs in rural communities and we are deeply concerned about policies in the revised draft National Planning Policy Framework relating to rural exception sites which would further reduce the supply of rural affordable housing.   

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