Over half (around 66%) of the population of Britain live within 30 miles of an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). The status of locals’ natural areas is held in high regard. Over one million people live within one of the 46 AONBs and so are even more passionate about protecting nature while developing the economies of their land.
Government spending on AONBs is less than 20p per person per year, which is very cost-effective. However, tourism and educational planning and initiatives for AONBs are very few compared to national parks. Due to having more investment, National Parks are far superior at promoting understanding and the enjoyment of their geographically interesting landscapes. With so many important stakeholders among the public, from shop owners to farmers, a ‘call for evidence’ ran by the Ministry of the Environment will assess how the benefits of living in these protected areas can be enhanced. It will also review which parts of the country could benefit from greater protection.
Measured at 1983km2, the North Pennines is one of the largest areas of natural beauty in the UK. The magnitude of these green countryside landscapes both legitimises extra precautions to prevent pollution and other harmful activity, as well as making the land far more difficult to propose holistic plans for.
These areas have increased over the years in order to protect more land rather than develop it, but the North Pennines is particularly impressive. Its picturesque waterfalls amid unspoilt moorlands and dales, which could have more hiking trails and a designated nature reserve, are just one example.
This AONB is very much on its own as one of just three in East England, along with the Norfolk and Suffolk Coast. Intensive farming and other agricultural developments are the only uses of the land at present, so national park investment could bring about plans to turn the isolated farmland into a nature and wildlife reserve to attract visitors from the Midlands, where there is nothing like the cultivated rural landscape of the Wolds. Small conversions of existing infrastructures could also add economic value.
East Devon and Dorset
An ongoing plan for a Dorset and East Devon National Park aims to create higher paid job opportunities in tourism, to increase the amount of affordable housing and hotels and improve public transport for locals. It would, according to the National Park Report, help to promote Dorset to tourists and increase the amount of people relocating to the South Coast. This would build on Dorset’s image as a Gold Standard cultural heritage and a World Heritage coastline, along with protecting biodiversity in the countryside and along unspoilt beaches.
Dorset’s coastal districts such as Poole, Weymouth and Swanage are currently marketed nationally as natural tourist attractions, but their environmental quality of Dorset make them ideal for expansion into a national park. The bid points out that national park status would boost the brand of Dorset, making the county more valuable to businesses and investors.