Earlier this week the Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn, made her long awaited statement in the Assembly on the future status and role of Designated Landscapes. It was a positive and reassuring message. A five year process of review and deliberation has resulted in what on the surface feels like very little change. But this is a good result as crucially she endorsed the Sandford Principle (which places conservation at the heart of the Designated Landscapes) and she committed to drawing a line under the process, thus bringing some certainty and stability to the National Parks and AONBs. Her statement was really a ringing endorsement of the work of the National Parks and the part they can and should play in providing some of the benefits being talked about so much at the moment – sustainability, health and wellbeing, natural resource management etc.
Questions from Assembly Members followed her statement and all AMs showed a universal appreciation and commitment to making the best use of this world ranking resource we have in Wales. Whilst this statement was a relief, it does mean that the carefully considered upgrading and modernising that Terry Marsden recommended in his extensive review will not be acted upon. But, on balance, we have to be pleased that as the minister clearly stated the current National Park ‘purpose of conserving and enhancing natural beauty will not be weakened in any way’
She mentioned the valuable role played by the National Parks societies and the Alliance for Welsh Designated Landscapes in informing the debate and expressed her intention to continue a dialogue with us.