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Written Statement - The Review of Designated Landscapes in Wales

Carl Sargeant, Minister for Natural Resources

Earlier this year John Griffiths, then Minister for Culture and Sport announced in Plenary an independent review of Wales’ designated landscapes. Members contributions showed considerable support for a review and widespread recognition of the importance of Wales’ designated landscapes. I have developed the approach to the review taking account of the points made and I am pleased to announce that the review will now begin. I am making this announcement at this point to allow the review panel to commence their work gathering views and evidence from stakeholders, communities within the designated landscapes and the public in general.

Our designated landscapes are one of the key things that make Wales distinctive. Their landscapes, and the communities within them, are an important part of what makes Wales special environmentally but also in social and cultural terms. In addition, they play a significant economic role with the qualities that make them special attracting many millions of visitors every year.

The statutory purposes of our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty were originally set out in legislation that is now almost seventy years old. In the intervening decades, economic, environmental and social developments mean that the issues they face have evolved.   It is now timely and the commission on Public Services Governance and Delivery has made important recommendations for National Parks to step back, appraise and better understand whether the designations, purposes, management arrangements and governance of designated landscapes are best-placed to meet the challenges of today, as well as those in the future.

In doing this, we also have an opportunity to take account of the way in which the policy context has developed in recent years, most notably in terms of our understanding of sustainable development, and of natural resource management. I would like to see our designated landscapes become international exemplars of sustainability, living landscapes with vibrant, resilient rural communities, extensive outdoor recreational opportunities, thriving ecosystems and rich biodiversity. They have the potential to act as areas where new innovative solutions to the challenges of sustainability in fragile rural areas are tried and tested, understood and publicised.

The review will be conducted by an independent review panel, chaired by Professor Terry Marsden of Cardiff University and with John Lloyd Jones and Dr Ruth Williams as members. This panel has the experience and skills required to undertake a thorough review collating and weighing up the evidence and views that will be gathered over the coming months.

This work has two stages.  Stage one will examine the designations themselves looking at the purposes of these landscapes and the merits of classifying Wales’ designated landscapes under one type of designation.

In light of stage one, stage two will consider the governance arrangements of designated landscapes. It will review governance and management arrangements, and consider the recommendations of the Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery as part of this. It will take account of the Planning (Wales) Bill in respect of the future arrangements for planning in National Parks. The detailed remit and timetable for the Panel can be found on the Welsh Government website.

At each stage the panel will call for evidence and seek views from stakeholders, communities within the designated landscapes and the wider general public. 

I want to ensure that our designated landscapes are best equipped to meet current and future challenges while building upon their internationally recognised status. The review will consider whether the existing arrangements are best-placed to deliver these objectives and, if not, what changes should be made in order to achieve them.

Everyone who cares deeply about these great national assets now has an important opportunity to engage with the review panel and contribute their views and evidence to help shape the future of our most special landscapes.