A major independent review – led by Julian Glover – has called for action to reignite the founding spirit of our great National Park movement in order to make them greener, more beautiful and open to everyone.
The Chiltern Society both supports the principles of the report and the proposal that the AONB in our region may become a National Park and receive the attention, funding and appropriate powers we know it deserves. We would like to pass on our thanks to all those involved in working and contributing to the report. The Glover Report we feel is comprehensive, its findings sound and we look forward to working with Central Government, the wider National Landscapes family and our partners at the Chilterns Conservation Board in making it a reality.
We would like to highlight two main points:
The Chilterns AONB and associated surrounding area is in the most densely populated and economically active part of England which, combined with our proximity to London, poses unparalleled pressures on our region. The scale of housing demand, HS2, Heathrow and Luton Airport expansions and the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway development are major challenges for our Protected Landscape. As such, we seek reassurance that in the future the protected landscape status will cover an appropriate area wider than the AONB and deliver improved planning controls.
With more than 1.6million people within 5 miles of the existing AONB, and with many more in Greater London within 30-60 minutes easy reach, the Chilterns provide the essentials of life such as clean water, fresh air and the opportunity to improve health and wellbeing. However, increased tourism needs to maintain at the very least these essentials, be well-resourced and sufficiently managed.
The Chiltern Society therefore proposes that the Review should create a clear channel for key stakeholders from within the region to input expertise into national policy making and delivery, by giving local expert groups, which would include the Society, a seat at the table with DEFRA and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) committees on relevant policy issues;
Any future Management Plan for the Chilterns AONB/National Park needs to be strengthened to ensure that all public bodies who operate within the boundaries and surrounding impact areas, especially regarding Planning decisions affecting the Chilterns, have an increased responsibility put on them to use public money in ways that enhance, rather than damage, what makes the Chilterns unique and reflect the input from volunteers, local organisations and people.
The Management Plan needs to complement the new Environmental Land Management schemes supporting farmers to look after wildlife, access and heritage in the AONB/National Park, and to create a nature recovery network across the Chilterns and beyond its boundaries linking with the neighbouring AONBs.
With regard to use of the term “Sustainable Tourism” in the report, this needs further definition. What, in practice, does this actually mean? We support the establishment of a National Landscape Service, as long as it replaces current overarching boards in place and is not an additional layer of governance.
The Chiltern Society welcomes the thoughts of our members and the wider Chilterns community, and we are looking forward to working with Government locally and nationally to create a brighter future for The Chilterns. This is a wonderful opportunity to ensure all our finest landscapes including The Chilterns remain special and unique places for the benefit of current and future generations.”
We have written to both Lord Kimble and our patron, Earl Howe, to make them aware of our thoughts on this important matter.
The full Glover Report can be found here.