An East Riding of Yorkshire councillor has expressed disappointment with Natural England – the government’s advisor on the natural environment – following their initial response to a council expression of interest last year for part of the Yorkshire Wolds to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Councillor Symon Fraser, the council’s portfolio holder for environment, housing and planning, said : “It’s disappointing that Natural England seems to be taking a very long time to even consider making a decision, and even more worrying that they would appear to be back-tracking on their previous invitation to apply for this status to be granted.
“If the AONB designation is to progress, it is vital that we get a positive and encouraging message from central government - a negative decision or a rejected bid is very regrettable in terms of what we were hoping to achieve for the stunning Wolds landscape”
His comments follow an initial response from Natural England to the council in which the organisation suggests that the first stage of its work to prioritise the bids it has received for AONB status from around the country is taking longer than anticipated. It also suggests that the whole process of considering new designations for AONBs looks very likely to be receiving lower priority than had been previously indicated, with Natural England instead concentrating on changes to boundaries of existing AONBs.
The council will now have to await the completion of further work by Natural England before any further decision on progress on the AONB proposal is announced.
* There are currently around 40 AONBs in England and Wales, representing 18% of the two countries’ finest countryside. They are nationally important landscapes of such outstanding natural beauty that they are given the same level of statutory protection from inappropriate development as applies in National Parks. They are designated by Natural England, who also advise on policies to protect them.
* In this region, there are existing AONBs covering the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale in North Yorkshire, and the Lincolnshire Wolds.
* The purposes of designating an AONB are to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape to ensure its survival for future generations; to meet the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside; and to have regard for the interests of those who live and work there. At the same time, it is recognised that the countryside is not a museum and must continue to support a distinct and traditional rural way of life.