Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
On behalf of the Future Landscapes Wales partnership I have today published ‘Future Landscapes: Delivering for Wales’. This report is the culmination of the review of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks in Wales.
The independent review into the purpose and governance of AONBs and National Parks in Wales was chaired by Professor Terry Marsden, Director of the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University and concluded its work in Autumn, 2015. The report made 69 recommendations covering a raft of proposals and observations on purposes, principles, vision, governance models, planning, and funding. The scale and scope of these recommendations was considerable. The then Minister for Natural Resources, asked Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM to lead a Future Landscapes Programme, involving representatives of the National Parks, AONBs, interest groups, business, and Local Government, to explore these recommendations and the case for reform.
A quarter of the land area of Wales is recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Park and these designations need to integrate with and take forward the aspirations of our new world-first legislative framework which emphasises the sustainable use of our natural resources as the bedrock of future prosperity and well-being.
The first State of Natural Resources Report for Wales says all ecosystems in Wales have issues in terms of their resilience and some of the services and benefits they provide to Wales may be at risk. The Proposition developed by Future Landscapes Wales sets the designated landscapes on a path to drive the sustainable management of natural resources in their areas and working beyond their current boundaries. It draws on the strengths and opportunities of genuine partnership and collaboration and advocates greater flexibility in structures and response so that the needs of places and communities can be met.
The Future Landscapes Wales Programme has been highly collaborative in nature and has involved a wide range of stakeholders in its debates and deliberations. Developing the relationships necessary to build trust and achieve consensus takes time but provides a firmer foundation for progress. This approach demands a change of role for the Welsh Government, to open the door for setting the strategic agenda and a commitment to work with partners to deliver the response to the challenges identified.
The next step is to deliver against the ambition, not in isolation, but together as part of the collaborative approach. Wales will need to address the complex environmental and social issues it faces. Our designated landscapes should not only be valued for their natural beauty, but as places with thriving living landscapes containing vibrant, resilient communities. They provide, opportunities for tourism, outdoor recreation and local employment. They deliver benefits for our health and in the management of our diverse ecosystems.
I intend to lead a debate next month with Members on the value to Wales of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and all landscapes.
Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM will continue in his role of facilitating and enabling a National Partnership to drive forward actions to deliver for the people of Wales.