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AONB Communications Officers Newsletter November 2019


It's been a seriously busy couple of months for AONBs and the NAAONB, for the environment sector and in Westminster (and Brussels too). So there's a lot to update you on. Do get comfy with a cup of tea - promise it will be worth it!
First and foremost, a huge congratulations to all the AONB teams who took part in the National Moment on 21 September, which is an age ago now, and in Landscapes for Life week. 
The Communications Topic Working Group (formed as part of the Taking the Lead programme) pulled off a real coup in commissioning the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to write a brand new poem, Fugitives, and even Julian Glover wanted to get in on the action, with a surprise decision to publish his review on the same day. A huge congratulations to the Comms TWG: Sue Dampney, Jim Hardcastle, Ali Clarke, Nicky Bailey and Chris Woodruff. 


As ever, if you have any projects you’d like to spread the word about, please get in touch. 

Date for your diary – the next communications officers dial in meeting will take place soon – please vote for your preferred time on the doodle poll.

In this issue:

What’s going on?
What's on the horizon?

The national moment - Hearts in the Landscape
Landscapes for Life Week 2020
NAAONB Annual Report 2018-19
Around the AONBs
Trialling the new basecamp - please help!
Defra Year of Green Action update

Communication officers dial in meeting

What’s happening?

he top lines on what's happening in the wider world, and links to find out more. 

After returning to parliament after the summer break, being briefly prorogued and then heading off to conferences, MPs will tomorrow be sent home again to begin General Election campaigning.

You have hopefully seen the NAAONB's response to the Glover Review of Designated Landscapes which was published on 21 September, if not, do take a few minutes to have a look through - the response summarises the review findings as well as the NAAONB's thoughts on them. The NAAONB is part of a coalition of NGOs including the Campaign for National Parks and the CPRE working together on plans to deliver the recommendations of the Review. They've agreed to focus on four key areas:
- positioning AONBs and National Parks as central to nature recovery and climate change mitigation and adaptation,
- improving diversity and access for everyone to designated landscapes,
- strengthening the duty of regard in the planning system, and
- increasing resources for designated landscapes.

With the dissolution of parliament, there won't be any new legislation passed for quite some time, then when the new government is in place, they will set out their new legislative timetable. With all this uncertainty, the coalition of NGOs has decided not to waste any time, and to begin working on those recommendations of the Review and the targets in the 25 Year Environment Plan (which has cross-party support) that don't require new legislation. The subgroup of Lead Officers working on the Declaration for Nature (Colchester Declaration) are meeting on Friday to discuss how we deliver on our climate change and biodiversity commitments in keeping with the challenges set by the Glover Review, the 25 Year Environment Plan and the Environment Bill. We are still on track to set out concrete targets by the end of the year to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. The NAAONB's chairman, Philip Hygate, and the Chair of National Parks England, Margaret Paren, recently met with Lord Gardiner of Kimble, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, to discuss the role of AONBs in nature recovery and how protection for AONBs might be strengthened. Howard Davies, Philip Hygate and Vice Chair, Chris Woodley-Stewart, met with Marian Spain and Tony Juniper of Natural England to discuss the same. We are also prioritising our work on increasing the diversity of people accessing the countryside. Maxwell Ayamba who founded the 100 Black Men Walking for Health Group in Sheffield is speaking at the Chairman's Conference to help us better understand how we can increase the variety of people we attract to visit, volunteer in and work in AONBs in a real and lasting way.

The National Association for AONBs and National Parks England are working to seek manifesto commitments on funding for designated landscapes from the major parties. To date, one meeting has taken place, with the Labour Party Director of Strategy. 

We're not really any closer to knowing when the UK will leave the EU, but plans for a new Office of Environmental Responsibility to scrutinise, advise and enforce Environmental legislation after Brexit have now had their second reading in Parliament. They form part of the government's Environment Bill

The Bill received its second reading in parliament on 28 October, receiving all party support to pass unopposed, which means it’s now reached committee stage. While the uncertainty in Parliament means we don’t know how long it will take to come into force, it’s good to see the Bill progressing.
Some key points of interest recommended in the Bill are:
  • The Bill makes provision for the setting of long-term (15 year minimum), legally binding targets for:
    • Air quality
    • Water
    • Biodiversity
    • Resource efficiency and waste reduction,
  • Government will be required to have and maintain an Environmental Improvement Plan, and to report on progress towards this annually,
  • A policy statement on environmental principles will be produced, which Ministers will have to refer to when making policy,
  • A statutory, independent Office for Environmental Responsibility will be created to hold government to account on environmental law and its Environment Improvement Plan,
  • The duty on public bodies to conserve and enhance biodiversity will be strengthened and improved,
  • A 10% increase in biodiversity will become mandatory for developers through the planning system (10% increase after development compared with the same land before),
  • Preparation and publication of Local Nature Recovery Strategies will be required.
What's on the Horizon?

The main dot on the horizon is the fast approaching General Election on 12 December. As outlined above, we are working with National Parks England to try and get manifesto commitments on Designated Landscapes from the major parties. 

The Defra Tests and Trials are nearing their start after a lot of work and some delays. To bring you up-to-date, this is the 'Farming for the Nation' project which the NAAONB is coordinating. 12 AONBs are involved, and they will be testing new ways for Defra to incentivise environmentally friendly approaches to farming. The projects vary across the different AONBs according to landscape type, but all incorporate an approach which encourages collaboration between the farmers and land managers involved; baselines natural capital and ecosystems services; incorporates nature-friendly farming approaches into farm business plans, land management plans and AONB Management Plans; and reports on the impact of new approaches. The 12 AONBs involved are Blackdown Hills AONB, Cornwall AONB, Cranbourne Chase AONB, Dorset AONB, East Devon AONB, Forest of Bowland AONB,
Kent Downs AONB, Nidderdale AONB, North Pennines AONB, Quantock Hills AONB, Surrey Hills AONB, and Tamar Valley AONB. 
The national moment - Hearts in the Landscape

Thank you to all the AONBs who took part in the National Moment on 21 September. It was a fantastic day with lots of nature love on Twitter! 
Thank you to everyone who supplied photos and videos for the National Moment film, collated by Richard Hammond of GreenTraveller. This, along with a few other examples of films from the day is below. 
We had some really good press interest both nationally and locally - if your coverage isn't included on the report, please email to have it added.

National Moment - the national video
Thank you to everyone who took part in National Moment events and supplied videos and photos. 
Arnside & Silverdale AONB National Moment
Simon Armitage reads Fugitives for the first time
South Devon AONB National Moment
Cornwall AONB's Kerdroya Labyrinth for the National Moment
Link takes you to the Cornwall AONB National Moment video on Facebook
Landscapes for Life Week 2020
After a survey monkey vote which 22 AONBs took part in, the dates for Landscapes for Life Week 2020 have been decided as 19-27 September. Thank you to everyone who took part. 
Annual Report 2018-19
The National Association for AONBs' annual report is now available on the Landscapes for Life website. It includes facts and figures using the brand new KPIs alongside case studies from around the UK illustrating the real-life impact of AONBs' work for our local communities. 
Art in the Landscape
There is a new area on the Landscapes for Life website about the Art in the Landscape project (pictures will be added to the area shortly!). Hopefully you saw the Basecamp messages late last year asking for levels of interest in working on outdoor art projects to attract first time visitors to AONBs. AONBs were invited to specify their level of interest (from large-scale national impact artworks to more modest pieces) and their existing levels of experience in working with artists and delivering outdoor art projects. Many thanks to Jenny Carey-Wood for kicking off and working up the project.
Under the umbrella of the NAAONB, AONBs have been granted £15,000 by the Arts Council England to develop the project further. An opportunity to have training in how to work with artists and deliver Art in the Landscape projects will be available next year during the Wye Valley River Festival. The first piece of work in the Art in the Landscape programme was the National Moment events and Simon Armitage's Fugitives commission. Howard Davies made a commitment to exploring how working with artists can increase the numbers of first time visitors to AONBs at the National Moment event at Arnside & Silverdale AONB in September. 
Around the AONBs

Dark Sky at Night - AONBs' delight 
Forgive the naff headline, but there is a lot to celebrate! Numerous AONBs have fantastic Dark Sky Discovery Sites, and more have recently been added. Congratulations to Malvern Hills AONB who recently had their first two Dark Sky Discovery sites certified. And a massive well done to Cranbourne Chase AONB which recently became the first AONB to be declared a International Dark Sky Reserve in its entirety after 10 years of hard work, a brilliant achievement!

New Cycle Route for Cornwall AONB
Congratulations to Cornwall AONB for securing over £15,000 worth of European funding to create a new cycle route with improved waymarking and bike parking facilities. 

Awards success for Arnside & Silverdale AONB
Like buses, it seems you wait ages for an award and then three come along at once! Congratulations to the team at Arnside & Silverdale AONB on bagging two coveted Royal Town Planning Institute Awards for its Development Plan Document, created in collaboration with its two local authorities: South Lakeland District Council and Lancaster City Council. At the recent ceremony in Manchester, the team walked away with 'Best Spatial Planning' Award and the project was also named the overall winner for the North West Region. The project now goes forward to the national final next spring. As well as that, the team were also placed second in the European Garden Awards for the 'Best Development of a Cultural Landscape of European Relevance' for their work on the Historic Designed Landscapes project. 

Forest of Bowland - Britain's happiest place?
The Ribble Valley was recently named Britain's happiest place to live. The area includes a significant chunk of the Forest of Bowland AONB. The news doesn't surprise us!

If you have news to share - please email
Trialling the new basecamp - please help!
Some of you have already registered for the new Basecamp and made a few posts. The National team really need help with some proper testing to put it through its paces. If you haven't already registered, you can do so by visiting to sign up, wait for your approval email, and then head to the 'Beta Testing' threads. To give us a kick start, we're discussing the relaunched Outstanding Hour on the new forums at the moment - so if you have any thoughts, please join us on there rather than discussing on Basecamp. 

Defra Year of Green Action update

2019 is Defra's Year of Green Action #YearofGreenAction #YoGA - designed to connect people with nature as part of the government's 25 Year Environment Plan. The 25 Year Environment Team recently sent out an update on the progress so far and what we can do to help with the final push towards the end of the year and the 70th anniversary celebrations. 
- The website includes volunteering opportunities, and we can add information about our own volunteering programmes to it. 
- Young people are at the heart of the Year of Green Action under the hashtag #iwill4nature. A Youth Steering Group has been formed and earlier in the summer, the Government invited them to review its environment and climate policy and provide recommendations to Ministers. The review has just been released.
Defra is encouraging conservation organisations to look at the #iwill website and consider how they can harness the views of young people in decisions about sustainability.  If you have links with a school, take a look at the excellent new Transform Our World resources collated by Global Action Plan in association with #iwill, which provide ideas for how schoolchildren can take green action.
- The Year of Green Action website is a great resource for pledge ideas, case studies of inspirational green action.
To date, over 3000 pledges have been made. Defra would appreciate our help in spreading the word to encourage our supporters to make a pledge, and for AONB Partnerships and Staff to make pledges too.
If you need inspiration on pledge ideas then have a look at our recently added Top Tips for Green Living.

Communication officers dial-in meeting

The notes from the last dial in meeting are on basecamp. The next meeting will take place before Landscapes for Life week for an update on progress with the national moment, the week itself and the Glover Report. Please use the doodle poll to vote for your preferred time and day.

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