What does the AONB do for me? - Simon's blog
I was recently asked: ‘What does the AONB do for me?’ I gave an answer to a rather sceptical landowner but as I was travelling home the question rather troubled me and I began to re-run the question and what I might have said in response.
The purpose of AONBs is to conserve and enhance the areas natural beauty and its special qualities and I started reflecting on interventions we have made in the planning system. The AONB is not about stopping development rather influencing planning decisions so development contributes to the areas qualities. Although we don’t always see how decisions are made I like to think that the comments we make influence the decision making process and conserve what so many people enjoy about these nationally designated areas.
But where I think we can really bring the designation alive is through our work to secure project work through grants and sponsorship that really benefit the areas wildlife, in recent years we have run wildlife projects to support species such as barn owls, otters, bats, black poplars, fish, stag beetles, orchids and many other things that people in the AONB enjoy and are what we define as its special qualities.
We have also made terrific landscape gains, particularly through our work to secure funding from an OFGEM allowance to underground low voltage power cables, supported miles of hedgerow planting and supported the management of numerous community open spaces for the benefit of residents and wildlife.
Much of this work is done with the support of volunteers, think of the hundreds that get involved in the Beachwatch programme or the helpful Constable Country ranger giving and advice and information.
So perhaps I should have taken my time a little bit more when responding to that question about what does the AONB do for me. The two AONBs in Suffolk and Essex are worth nearly £250M a year to the tourism industry. Whether your interest is wildlife, landscapes, walking, community cohesion, understanding history and heritage the AONB has it all. Continue to value your outstanding landscapes; they are good for your health, the economy and the environment.
First printed in the East Anglian Daily Times Sat 20 August 2016