East Riding of Yorkshire Council has expressed an interest to Natural England for one of its most attractive areas – the Yorkshire Wolds – to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The council believes that parts of the Wolds may be worthy of statutory designation and has informed Natural England, the government’s advisor on the natural environment.
When the idea was first raised in 2012, anti-wind farm protestors said that the classification could help protect the Wolds from unneccessary future development.
It was also hoped that it could provide a shot in the arm for the region’s tourist industry.
Coun Symon Fraser, portfolio holder for environment, housing and planning, said: “We start this process acknowledging that the Wolds are a special place of great beauty and that this is a result of the historic careful stewardship of those who live, farm and work in the area.
“Our interest in AONB designation will focus on how such recognition can help things happen to improve the Wolds for everyone. We do not look at AONB status as a tool to prevent progress into the future.”
There are currently around 40 AONBs in England and Wales, representing 18% of their finest countryside.
They are nationally important landscapes of such outstanding natural beauty that they are given the same level of statutory protection from inappropriate development that applies in National Parks.
They are designated by Natural England, who also advise on policies to protect them.
In this region, there are existing AONBs covering the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale in North Yorkshire, and the Lincolnshire Wolds.
The purposes of designating an AONB are to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape to ensure its survival for future generations; to meet the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside; and to have regard for the interests of those who live and work there.
At the same time, it is recognised that the countryside is not a museum and must continue to support a distinct and traditional rural way of life.
If it is agreed by Natural England that an application for designation can be pursued, then further supporting evidence and information will be sought.
The process to formal designation would be likely to take several years to achieve and could lead to a Public Inquiry.
As part of the process, the council would also seek to consult all the interested parties in the area, including local farmers, landowners, residents and the tourism industry.
If the designation was agreed, a Joint Advisory Committee including representatives of local authorities, landowners, farmers and conservation groups would be established, to manage the designated area.
The council is now awaiting a response from Natural England as to whether their expression of interest will be taken any further.
Read more in next week’s Free Press.