Press Release: CPRE - Outstanding Natural Beauty under threat

PRESS RELEASE - Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)

Contact: Jack Neill-Hall - CPRE Senior Press Officer: 020 7981 2819 or out of hours: 077 3933 2796
 
Outstanding Natural Beauty under threat
 
England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are under siege from damaging and inappropriate developments at a time when Government policy risks further weakening the protection of the countryside. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has today (Monday) published a map [Map: http://bit.ly/kbTGxJ, case studies: http://bit.ly/lF1Dsw ] showing many of the threats to some of England ’s most treasured landscapes [1].
 
CPRE is fighting proposals that would blight valued landscapes up and down the country. We will be highlighting these threats at a national conference on AONBs in Cornwall on Tuesday 05 July [2]. 
 
Shaun Spiers, CPRE Chief Executive, says: “CPRE branches across the country are on the frontline of the battle to protect our countryside, but the range of threats they face is frightening. Left unchallenged these proposed developments will have a lasting and detrimental effect on these areas.
 
“The threats facing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are particularly worrying because these contain many of the country’s finest landscapes and are meant to have the strongest planning protection.  If the planning system cannot safeguard AONBs – iconic landscapes such as Dedham Vale, the Forest of Bowland and the Cornwall coast – it should be strengthened.  However, we are deeply concerned that far from strengthening the planning system, the Government is proposing to make ‘yes’ the default answer to development proposals.”
 
CPRE’s report on the threat facing AONBs comes at a time when the planning system is facing its biggest shake-up for over 60 years.  As well as the Localism Bill, now being considered in the House of Lords, the Government is expected to publish a National Planning Policy Framework before 19 July. CPRE believes that the Government is risking an environmental disaster – and many battles with local communities – by putting the economic aims of the planning system ahead of its social and environmental purposes.  This is despite the fact that the same Government has recently published a White Paper on the natural environment that sets out a vision for protecting and restoring the countryside on a large scale. Ministers need to decide where their priorities lie.
 
Shaun Spiers concluded: “The ‘growth at any cost’ stance promoted by some within the Government places our countryside in enormous danger.  It risks undermining Ministers' own stated ambition in the Natural Environment White Paper to protect our natural assets much better. AONBs and National Parks are meant to have the highest protection in planning policy but our examples of threats to AONBs show that, in practice, this isn’t always the case.
 
“The Government should be giving very clear guidance to local authorities to protect landscapes in AONBs. Heaven help the rest of the countryside if the protection it currently has is further weakened in the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework.”