University research informs government report into future management of protected landscapes

Research conducted at the University of Plymouth has featured in a government report examining the future challenges facing National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

The Landscapes Review was commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in May 2018, following the publication of the Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan.

It looked at whether the existing protections for National Parks and AONBs are still fit for purpose and, in particular, what might be done better, what changes will help and whether the definitions and systems in place are still valid.

The final report, published on the Defra website, includes several references to a soon-to-be-published University project that looks into environmental monitoring within protected landscapes.

Commissioned by Natural England, that report is written by Dr John Martin and Emily Horswill, from the Sustainable Earth Institute and Adam Guy from the School of Art, Design and Architecture.

It summarises data collected as part of the national Framework for Monitoring Environmental Outcomes in Protected Landscapes (FMEOPL) programme, which began in 2013, and includes information collected by, among others, Defra, Historic England, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission.

The University report will be the first of its kind to include data for both National Parks and AONBs, and will include details about agri-environmental schemes, water quality, listed buildings at risk and woodland management.

Dr Martin, who has extensive expertise in landscape assessments and management, said:

“Our research for Natural England provides a snapshot of some of the many important aspects of sustainable environmental management. It has been under increased national scrutiny since the Government’s 25-Year Environment Plan was published last year, with public awareness and involvement also growing over a number of years.

“In order to manage these areas effectively, it is vital to have systems in place through which we can monitor the effectiveness of existing measures and identify where new ones need to be introduced. We hope our report, and its inclusion within the Defra Landscapes Review, can inform relevant future decision-making. However, it can also show how the reforms being introduced by the Government might enhance nature recovery and the beauty of the natural environment more broadly.”

The Landscapes Review was led by Julian Glover, Associate Editor at the London Evening Standard, supported by an experienced advisory group including Lord Cameron of Dillington, Jim Dixon, Sarah Mukherjee, Dame Fiona Reynolds and Jake Fiennes.

In the summary of their findings, the authors say:

“The underlying argument of our review is that our system of national landscapes should be a positive force for the nation’s wellbeing. Big ambitions are made possible by these 44 areas working together in new ways to become more than the sum of their parts. Our overriding conclusion is that without structural reform and greater shared ambition and status, our national landscapes will always struggle to do more than make an incremental difference.”

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