South Oxfordshire District Councillors have welcomed plans which could see the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) extended and better protected for future generations.
This week, the government published proposals to create new protected landscapes and improve people’s access to nature, including the extension of the Chilterns AONB. The extended area will now be formally considered for ‘AONB’ status by Natural England. Securing this designation would allow it to benefit from greater protection so that more of England’s beautiful landscapes are safeguarded for future generations.
The area could also benefit from the new Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, which will provide funding to help farmers and other land managers in National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to make improvements to the natural environment and improve public access on their land.
This important programme will help farmers and land managers to carry out projects that support nature’s recovery, mitigate the impacts of climate change, provide opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and cultural heritage, or support nature-friendly, sustainable farm businesses.
Natural England, the government’s advisor for the natural environment in England, has also published a new Landscape Designations Programme, including plans to explore a ‘boundary extension’ to the Chilterns AONB and consider new management and governance arrangements to support the improved protection and enhancement of the Chilterns landscape.
Cllr Andrea Powell, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “This is very encouraging news; we have already made celebrating, protecting and enhancing our natural assets a priority for this council.
“We welcome the government’s commitment to work with councils and other local organisations on this, and we’re looking forward to working with our partners at the other local authorities in the Chilterns along with the Earth Trust, Chilterns Conservation Board and the Environment Agency to really focus our efforts on the Chilterns AONB.
Cllr Lynn Lloyd, the district council’s representative on the Chilterns Conservation Board, said: “The AONB is a vital part of life here in South Oxfordshire. As a natural asset it enhances the beauty of the area and provides real health and wellbeing benefits to people across our community. It is also a significant economic resource for the district, as many people who come here from outside the area will also spend time in our towns and villages and enjoy our local shops and hospitality.”
Cllr Powell added: “We must all play a role in protecting and being custodians of our great natural resources and wonderful landscapes and these are commitments we’ve set out in our Corporate Plan. These extra protections and additional funding will help to guarantee that the area will be protected from inappropriate development and will be here for many generations to come.”