Natural England dragging their heels

Symon Fraser

Symon Fraser

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An East Riding councillor is disappointed that a decision to grant protected status to the Wolds countryside around Driffield has been delayed.

Driffield and rural ward Councillor Symon Fraser, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s portfolio holder for environment, housing and planning, said that Natural England – the Government’s advisor on the natural environment – are dragging their heels on making a decision after the council expressed an interest in 2013 for part of the Yorkshire Wolds to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). His comments follow an initial response from the body which suggested the first stage of work to prioritise bids received for AONB status is taking longer than anticipated.

Coun Fraser believes this also suggests that the whole process of considering new designations for AONBs looks likely to receive lower priority than had been previously indicated, with Natural England instead concentrating on changes to boundaries of existing AONBs.

The council will now have to await the completion of further work by Natural England before any further progress is made.

Coun Fraser said last year that pressure had grown for the Wolds to receive AONB status following a number of wind farm proposals, while calls were strengthened after the record success of David Hockney’s Royal Academy exhibition – which showcased the beauty of the landscape.

It was also hoped that it could provide a shot in the arm for the region’s tourist industry.

AONBs are designated 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.

Symon Fraser said: “It’s disappointing that Natural England seems to be taking a very long time to even consider making a decision, and even more worrying that they would appear to be back-tracking on their previous invitation to apply for this status to be granted.

“If the AONB designation is to progress, it is vital that we get a positive and encouraging message from central government – a negative decision or a rejected bid is very regrettable in terms of what we were hoping to achieve for the stunning Wolds landscape”

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