AONBs are ‘Protected Landscapes’ – along with UK National Parks – in the world scale of landscape and environmental protection.
Our AONB is part of a global family of 6,555 protected areas, covering 12% of the earth’s surface
These are overseen by the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) adminstered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN has defined a series of six protected area managment catagories and all AONBs in the UK as defined as Catageory V protected landscapes
The national parks of many other nations are strictly protected areas with minimal human intervention.
In contrast AONBs are living and working landscapes where human activities are part of everyday life; villages thrive, the land is farmed, foresters are active, and people enjoy all aspects of the countryside.
The European Landscape Convention – also known as the Florence Convention, – promotes the protection, management and planning of European landscapes and organises European co-operation on landscape issues.
The Convention has defined Landscape as “an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors”.
Not another European Directive?
No, this is a Treaty of the Council of Europe – not the European Union – that is freely entered into by individual state governments.
This landscape convention builds upon earlier European Conventions, aimed at conserving wildlife and protecting architectural and archaeological heritage, and the Rio Convention on biological diversity. It starts from the fundamental acknowledgement “that the landscape is an important part of the quality of life for people everywhere: in urban areas and the countryside, in degraded areas as well as in areas of high quality, in areas recognised as being of outstanding beauty as well as everyday areas”.
Importantly, it defines landscape in relation to people, aiming to “promote landscape protection, management and planning, and to organise European co-operation on landscape issues.”
What does this mean nationally?
- Recognising landscapes in law as “essential components of people’s surroundings, an expression of the diversity of their shared cultural and natural heritage, and a foundation of their identity,”
- Establishing and implementing “landscape policies aimed at landscape protection, management and planning”,
- Establishing procedures for the participation of the public, and local and regional authorities, in defining landscape policies,
- Integrating landscape into “regional and town planning policies together with environmental, agricultural, social and economic policies”.
- Doing these things requires raising awareness, training and education, identification and assessment, landscape quality objectives, and implementation.
Identifying and protecting landscapes
It is of great significance that all landscapes are recognised in this convention, and not just those that are already have some wildlife or natural beauty designation. Nevertheless, AONBs in general are well placed to demonstrate the convention in action.
Cranborne Chase AONB is already raising awareness that “landscape matters”, we have landscape character and landscape sensitivity assessments, and our Management Plan covers not only policies for landscape protection, management, and planning but also involves local people and local authorities and organisations in its creation. There are, however, still many more things to be done!
The people at the heart of landscape policy
The landscape is part of the land, as perceived by local people or visitors, which evolves through time as a result of being acted upon by natural forces and human beings.
Please see the Council of Europe website for further information.
In the UK there are 41 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 11 National Parks. AONBs cover 15.6% of land in England and Wales and the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs is the 6th largest and is one of twelve AONBs in the South West Region.
Landscapes for Life
All UK AONBs are memebers of the National Assoiation of AONBs and is able to access advice and work with all the other protected areas around the UK. Visit the National Association of AONBs Website.
The AONB is also a member of the South West Protected Landscapes Forum (SWPLF). This is the umbrella body for the most prized places of natural beauty in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, the Isles of Scilly, Somerset and Wiltshire. It aims to promote best practice in Protected Landscapes management through networking, co-ordination and joint working that reduces duplication of effort and resources whilst more effectively and efficiently influencing regional and national decision-making that affects Protected Landscapes in the South West. Visit the SWPLF website.
In addition, because the Cranborne Chase AONB also includes part of Hampshire, an AONB Team member also attends meetings of the South East Protected Landscapes Forum where relevant.