AONBs renamed following Landscape Review proposals

Environment and climate
A gateway into a field of sheep in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Defra has consulted on the changes required to implement and deliver the proposals it plans to take forward from the 2019 Landscape Review of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

In September 2019, an independent review of England’s National Parks and AONBs (also known as the Glover Report) put forward 27 proposals to improve these protected landscapes.

Defra reviewed these proposals and identified where changes to legislation may be required to deliver and implement them.

Defra then opened a consultation which the NFU responded to. The government response has yet to be published.

22 November 2023

AONBs renamed National Landscapes

On 22 November the National Landscape Association announced that AONBs have been renamed ‘National Landscapes’.

In the 2022 Landscape Review consultation government stated that they were ‘testing the proposal to rename AONBs as National Landscapes’.

We haven’t yet had the government response to this consultation which will outline governments plans for these landscapes, however in the EIP (Environment Improvement Plan), government stated that they will ‘support the National Association of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to rebrand AONBs as National Landscapes’.

The renaming process has been led by the National Association for AONBs and the wider network of AONBs teams (now National Landscapes).

Its important to understand that ‘National Landscapes’ remain designated AONBs as this is a legal designation and will not change. The purposes and powers of AONB have not changed as part of this rebrand. Defra ‘believes a coherent brand and easily understandable name will boost understanding of their national significance with more diverse communities of residents, partners, and visitors.’

This rebranding comes before the government consultation response however we do still know that government has a vision to strengthen the role of ‘National Landscapes’.

The NFU is worried that the government's vision and subsequent outcomes of the consultation could increase the focus on nature, fail to recognise and support the socioeconomic aspects of these landscapes and subsequently create additional burdens for farm businesses in these areas. The NFU will continue working with government to ensure these concerns are taken into account.

28 June 2022

Summary of the NFU response

The NFU's policy advisers have worked to put together a summary of the key themes in the government's response to the Landscape Review.

These themes intersect multiple questions that were included in the spring 2022 consultation.

We've also outlined key NFU asks.

Change to purpose and statutory duties of National Parks and AONBs

The NFU does not support the proposal to strengthen the first purpose of protected landscapes. By focusing on nature and nature recovery, the proposal fails to support the people, businesses and communities that live and work in these protected landscapes and doesn’t recognise each landscape's individual, cultural and historical value. The NFU believes that a social and economic purpose and the accountability to deliver this is essential to strengthen delivery of the first purpose: nature recovery.

The NFU agrees with the proposal to give AONBs a second purpose relating to connecting ‘people and place’ and emphasises that this must also focus on those that live and work in these landscapes, not just visitors. The NFU is however concerned about the impacts the public can have on farming businesses and the natural environment. The NFU calls for a modern and responsive network of access and rights of way in protected landscapes, and where necessary the powers and safeguards to prevent these impacts.

Defra identifies that the role of public bodies in preparing and implementing management plans should be clear and strengthened. The NFU is concerned about how these changes would be balanced between public bodies especially if a body's duty is nature focused. It is therefore important management plan guidance clearly outlines roles and responsibilities, as well as the importance of stakeholder engagement.

The NFU further calls for Defra to:

  • Address the social and economic needs of farm businesses and rural communities through a third socioeconomic purpose. These are dynamic businesses that need to change and grow in response to the government's wider agendas, be that to meet new regulation or a need to improve the efficient use of resources in light of declining farming support.
  • Take into consideration the vital role rural businesses in protected landscapes provide in producing local sustainable food for these communities and how this contributes to this country’s food security.
  • Outline how the levelling up agenda will be delivered in rural protected landscapes, particularly when planning authorities in National Parks are being required to prioritise nature. The NFU's Levelling Up Rural Britain report (2021) outlines how British farming and rural Britain can provide the solution to many of the challenges the nation faces, including making a success of the new green agenda, but it needs to be properly supported if it is to deliver these solutions.
  • Clarify how the first purpose will be strengthened to include adaptation to climate change.
  • Ensure any change in purpose or duty is aligned with other government agendas, local strategies, regulations, and schemes to provide a unified vision e.g. Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG), local plans etc.

National Parks and AONBs' role in future funding

Defra is considering a number of options for how the special status of protected landscapes can be reflected in the design and delivery of the new ELMs (Environmental Land Management schemes). The NFU stance on these proposals is outlined below:

  • The NFU supports the suggestion that ELMs should be developed in a way that works and supports all farmers and land managers and recognises the important role those in protected landscapes play. It is important that ELMs is delivered consistently across the countryside while allowing for variances across the country and the challenges of different farming systems e.g. tenants, uplands etc.
  • Protected landscape bodies could be used to help inform monitoring or decision making, however these bodies should not be involved in the delivery of ELMs. FiPL (Farming in Protected Landscapes) experiences have varied across different landscapes. As such, the NFU has concerns about future delivery. Protected landscape bodies should not be involved in inspections or monitoring compliance with the ELMs agreement. This role should remain with the relevant delivery body.
  • Protected landscape bodies should be involved with the creation of LNRS (Local Nature Recovery Strategies) as a stakeholder in partnership with other representatives who live and work in these landscapes, but not the sole delivery body. LNRS are about identifying nature/biodiversity priorities, but there are socio-economic priorities that should also be considered.

AONB teams – statutory consultees

The role of AONBs in the planning process is raised in the consultation, and outlines proposals to strengthen their role to become statutory consultees in development planning. The NFU supports the decision that AONB teams could contribute to the planning process as statutory consultees. However, it is vital that this is supported by adequate resource and a representation that incorporates the interests of the area, including farming. If an AONB’s purpose focuses on nature this must be taken into consideration to ensure local businesses can modernise infrastructure and remain viable.

Local governance

Defra identifies that local governance can create the conditions for consistently high standards of collaboration towards shared strategic priorities and as such proposes measures to improve local governance. The NFU supports the majority of the suggestions but has concerns that a reduced board size could risk missing adequate representation and that a Secretary of State-appointed chair could risk losing a valuable connection to the area.

9 April 2022

Consultation closes

The consultation closed on 9 April 2022. The NFU submitted a response after consulting with members.

You can download and read the NFU's response in full here: NFU response to the consultation on the government's response to the Landscape Review

28 March 2022

Deadline for feedback from members

We asked members to feed in their views to us by 28 March to ensure they could be reviewed for our official consultation response.

After this date, we continued to encourage members to have their say in the consultation by responding directly at the Defra website: Government response to the Landscapes Review

4 February 2022

Draft response for member feedback

The NFU drew up a draft response to the consultation and published it here at NFUonline asking for feedback and additional input from members.

Our expert advisers also put together a briefing document to guide members through the contents of the consultation and the next steps.

You can still read the briefing here: NFU briefing on the government's response to the Landscape Review 

NFU view

The NFU is keen to see engagement with the agriculture industry throughout to ensure its integral role in these protected landscapes is recognised in any new systems, leadership, or mission.

Defra’s vision is for these landscapes to be at the heart of delivering nature recovery, climate change resilience and to ensure they can deliver for everyone. Incorporating economic and social issues into plans was one of the NFU’s key asks when responding to the Landscape Review and is a point the NFU will continue to lobby for recognition and inclusion of in this consultation.

The Landscape Review and subsequent consultation outlined opportunities to boost local delivery through a change to governance, sustainable financing, and legislation. We're keen to see a governance structure that delivers good effective engagement in all National Parks and AONBs with the farmers who manage these landscapes.

15 January 2022

Defra opens consultation

On 15 January 2022, Defra opened a consultation on its proposals for implementing the recommendations of the 2019 Landscape Review.

You can still read about the consultation at the Defra website: Government response to the Landscapes Review

Government proposals

Under the plans, a new National Landscapes Partnership would bring together all of those responsible for managing England’s National Parks and AONBs and stiffen up governance. The partnership would be tasked with targeting green funding, generating private income and boosting tourism, possibly through national campaigns.

AONBs could be renamed as part of a step change in their management, while a change to the legal footing of National Parks would focus on active nature recovery.

The government said this should be a core function of the landscapes, beyond simply protecting what is already there. It is considering how to reflect that aim in the design of farm support under ELMs.

Its blueprint calls for barriers to access to be removed and for the role of National Parks and AONBs in public wellbeing to be clearly referenced. Open access maps could be reviewed, and the government said that new powers may be needed to address any problems caused by extra visitors.

NFU view

The NFU's Environment Forum chair Richard Bramley said any changes must recognise the role of farming in shaping some of the nation’s most beautiful areas.

“Farming is at the heart of our National Parks and AONBs,” he said.

He added that National Parks and AONBs needed to work with farmers to ensure “living, working landscapes that can both feed the nation and thrive with nature”. Measures that stifled farm business productivity could have “unintended consequences”, he warned.

He said the NFU would work to ensure viable farm businesses were “at the centre” of any decisions, while highlighting UK farming’s ambitions to reach net zero by 2040.

Consultation structure

The consultation was split into four chapters:

  1. A more coherent national network
  2. Nature and climate
  3. People and place
  4. Supporting local delivery

Defra highlighted opportunities to bring protected landscapes together by:

  • Unifying the current system
  • Providing more consistent national leadership
  • Setting a clear mission.

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  • In January 2022 Defra opened a consultation on its plans and the proposed changes.
  • The NFU worked with members to develop its response to the consultation.
  • The consultation closed on 9 April 2022. You can read a summary of the NFU’s response on this page, as well as downloading more detailed information.
  • On Wednesday 22 November the National Landscape Association announced that AONBs have been renamed ‘National Landscapes’.