On Thursday, Natural England published its ambitious new Landscape Designation Programme, forming part of broader Government plans aimed at delivering better outcomes for nature, landscapes and people.
As part of its Programme, Natural England has announced that it will explore a ‘boundary extension’ to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), taking into account an application made by the Chilterns Conservation Board in 2013 and proposals set out in the Landscapes Review (the ‘Glover Review’) – an independent review commissioned by the Government.
Natural England also announced plans to work with the Chilterns Conservation Board, local authorities and other stakeholders to jointly consider new management and governance arrangements to support the improved conservation, understanding and enjoyment of the Chilterns landscape.
The Chilterns is home to many vibrant and growing communities. An extension to the Chilterns AONB would provide direct access to high-quality natural environments from many urban areas such as Luton, Hemel Hempstead and Slough. Newly designated land would provide people living in these areas with greater opportunities to access to the countryside, benefit from the tranquility it provides and get away from the pressures of everyday life.
The announcement is equally important for Chilterns’ wildlife and habitats. With its globally rare chalk streams, wildflower-rich chalk grassland and prehistoric settlements – including Bronze and Iron Age hillforts – extending the boundaries of the AONB provides opportunities for a more strategic approach to caring for the special features of the Chilterns’ that are currently outside the protected area.
Dr Elaine King, Chief Executive Officer at the Chilterns Conservation Board, said: ‘We are delighted that Natural England has chosen to consider our proposal for the Chilterns AONB to be increased in size. This is an exciting chapter in our history, which will help bring more people closer to nature and increase opportunities for recreation and enjoyment of this special landscape.
‘We are also excited at the opportunity to explore new and innovative approaches by which we can tackle the impacts of climate change, reverse declines in nature, support our local businesses and improve people’s wellbeing and access to our special landscapes. This is even more important as we all work to recover from the impacts of the Covid pandemic.’
The Chilterns Conservation Board is looking forward to working in partnership with Natural England, local authorities and other stakeholders in the region to take forward this element of Natural England’s Landscape Designations Programme to help address the huge challenges facing the Chilterns landscape, while also helping improve its resilience for nature and for people.
Image: Turville May 21 Credit Hedley Thorne