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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Could the Welsh Government pose a threat to the Gower AONB?

Having fought a campaign some years ago to keep the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status for Gower, it is disturbing to read in yesterday's Western Mail that further proposals are under consideration that might reduce the protection currently enjoyed by the peninsular.

The paper says that the World Commission on Protected Areas has threatened to withdraw recognition from Wales’ National Parks (NPs) and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty(AONBs) because it believes that Welsh Government's proposals would reduce the protection for our most treasured landscapes:

The body's UK Assessment Panel is deeply concerned by Future Landscapes, a major Welsh Government-commissioned report.

It warns: “If acted upon, the recommendations in the Future Landscapes report would make it impossible for the panel to continue to accord international recognition to Wales’s NPs and AONBs as protected areas.”

The panel is part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – an international body which brings together thousands of experts and government agencies and other groups.

In a strong critique of the Welsh Government-commissioned report, they say it is “remarkable for referring only once in passing to the role that these places play, and could play better, in conserving biodiversity in Wales” and they warn it creates “uncertainty as to the future of the protected landscapes”.

They describe the plans as as a “big step backwards” from the 2015 report on Wales’ national landscapes led by Professor Terry Marsden of Cardiff University.

The panel argue the “strong environmental message” of that “ground breaking” report has been “diluted”, claiming it “conspicuously fails to endorse the core recommendations from Marsden about the primacy of conservation, and sets out a questionable view of these designated areas as ‘catalysts for regional development’”.

The paper adds that Adrian Phillips, one of the signatories of the panel’s report has highlighted the depth of concern:

“Because [the new] report leaves wide open the relationship between conservation and economic development then it looks very doubtful whether those areas could be continued to be recognised as protected areas... The current arrangements provide for international recognition; the Marsden report would strengthen that undoubtedly, but this new report would weaken it to the point I think where we were saying that we don’t think that it would be possible to continue to regard them as protected in the international sense and therefore they would be different from the equivalent areas in England and Scotland.”

It may well be that we will need to campaign again to protect the unique status of the UK's first area of outstanding natural beauty.
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