- Sustainable Socio-Economic Development
The fundamental benefit of designation would be that it would contribute to the socio-economic development of the whole of the area to the advantage, above all, of the local community. It would achieve this in the following ways:
- It would treat the economy and landscape as interdependent rather than alternatives, i.e., it will seek and promote forms of economic development that depend on the environment and which therefore require its conservation.
- It would recognise that the core activity on most of the land is agriculture and furthermore that, despite the decline over the years, agriculture is still a significant source of employment. It would recognise that, as the Farmers’ Union of Wales said in responding to the Agriculture (Wales) White Paper in 2021 “grazing livestock [contribute] towards biodiversity and landscape management…. for example, species rich grasslands, peatland maintenance, soil organic carbon, mixed habitats and the variety of wildlife which rely on farmland
being actively managed”. It would seek to maximise support for sustainable farming, encouraging and helping farmers to develop and market environmentally sound products (though there is as yet no automatic agri-environmental weighting in Welsh AONBs). It would also help farmers develop supplementary sources of income, and be an additional source of supporting evidence for appropriate applications for external funding.
- It would have as part of its task the promotion and support of other forms of sustainable socio-economic development, e. g., appropriate recreational use of the area with support for those providing services in such activities. The “knock-on” effects of such developments have been clearly quantified in other parts of Wales and have been shown to be very significant.
- It would attract outside financial funding, e.g.
- Funding from outside agencies which the AONB would use to create its own grant schemes e.g. to support environmental, socio-economic, or recreational projects which further AONB aims;
- Resources only afforded to designated areas in Wales e.g. for management and policing of off-roaders; proper management of public access (70% of the Cambrian Mountains are covered by open-access designations, but there is no overarching supervision of the public’s use of that privilege);
- Core funding to set up and support the AONB’s own staff unit i.e. direct jobs. AONB status would instil certainty and confidence in the communities of the Cambrian Mountains, and a better understanding and appreciation of what farmers and land managers contribute to the economy. Farming and other land-based enterprises would once more be seen by young local people as rewarding careers, contributing to the conservation of landscape, fighting climate change, managing wildlife and historic features.
FUW Agricultural White Paper Response March 2021
NFU Cymru Vision for Welsh Upland Farming 2020
- Environmental Benefits
Use of direct and indirect AONB funding to conserve and enhance the landscape of the Cambrian Mountains through promotion of sustainable socio-economic development, could also deliver environmental benefits. AONB status, and the funding which an AONB would seek to further its work, would:
- increase the area’s environmental integrity, by encouraging and supporting consideration of issues at a catchment or landscape level, and a holistic approach to the management of land in the Cambrian Mountains, regardless of administrative boundaries or other designations;
- help to deliver Biodiversity Action Plan targets for habitats and species;
- offer remedies for environmental and archaeological damage caused by past activities such as blanket afforestation;
- safeguard the remote quality which is one of the most distinctive features of the Cambrian Mountains, and encourage UK residents to value and experience that quality, rather than seeking it overseas at a higher cost to the global environment.
One of the issues facing the Cambrian Mountains and its communities today is a lack of certainty as to the region’s overall status, and even boundaries. Designation would bring significant changes in perception of the Cambrian Mountains – both internally and externally.
- Internal Change in Perception
- Designation would confer status and importance on the Cambrian Mountains, recognising that they are a significant and unified entity.
- It would place local people at the heart of planning for the future of the area.
- It would ensure a consistent and co-ordinated approach to landscape & environment throughout the Cambrian Mountains, regardless of planning authority boundaries, and avert problems such as proposals by Powys County Council to remove Special Landscape Area status from its western uplands, whilst Ceredigion retains SLA status for its adjoining eastern uplands.
- Designation would be a clear demonstration of the Welsh Government’s commitment to its responsibilities: a) to recognise landscapes in law, as an essential component of people’s heritage, identity and surroundings; b) to establish and implement landscape policies aimed at landscape protection, management and planning; c) to establish procedures for public participation in the definition and implementation of landscape policies; d) to integrate landscape into its regional and town planning policies and in its cultural, environmental, agricultural, social and economic policies as well as in any other policies with possible direct or indirect impact on landscape; e) to protect, manage and plan landscapes.
- External Perception
- It would raise the profile of the region for tourists, increasing opportunities for small-scale sustainable enterprises. Benefits would apply not just to the Cambrian Mountains, but also to the communities round the fringes.
- It would permit the creation of a Cambrian Mountains “brand” for local food and other products sold within and outside the area – wild, natural, green etc.
The creation of an AONB in a previously neglected area would raise self-confidence and encourage the further development of latent entrepreneurial skills within the local population.
- Delivering a Strategy for the Cambrian Mountains
The Cambrian Mountains Society believes that an AONB would provide an appropriate and clearly defined framework and structure within which a Strategy can be quickly developed and implemented.
- The purposes of AONB designation mirror the needs of the Cambrian Mountains.
- AONB status is familiar, widely recognised and understood, and provides over 40 existing examples, and 50 years of experience, from which Best Practice can be extracted and applied in the Cambrian Mountains.
- AONB management structures provide a ready-made but flexible template, in which the roles of all stakeholders are recognised. Following AONB designation, rapid progress could be achieved in setting up these structures.
- The critical importance of a Management Plan is given statutory recognition within AONB status.
- Long-term core funding – for the setting up and running of Partnerships and other representative bodies, and of a Staff Unit, and for preparation of the Management Plan – would automatically become available as a result of AONB designation. Funding would not be dependent on short-term, project-orientated grants.
- An AONB would give clear public recognition to the importance of the Cambrian Mountains, by defining a geographical area, which would be marked in such widely-used publications as road atlases, and on the ground by road and other signage.
- Contributing to the fulfilment of national and sub-national plans and strategies
A Cambrian Mountains AONB would contribute to the realisation of essential local, regional and national objectives:
- Managing the environment as a whole, taking account of its distinctive characteristics;
- Contributing to sustainable development by protecting landscapes, enhancing habitats;
- Encouraging spatially targeted integrated programmes that deliver environmental and economic benefits and conserve natural resources.