AONBs: government testing re-brand to ‘National Landscapes’ in effort to raise profile

Natural Environment

As part of its response to Julian Glover’s review of England's protected landscapes report, which landed over the weekend and kicked off a 12-week consultation, the government has revealed that it is testing a re-brand of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) to ‘National Landscapes’.

The latter featured in Proposal 24 of Glover’s Landscapes Review, which also called for AONBs to be “strengthened with new purposes, powers and resources”.

After all, said the review, the vast majority of AONBs are indistinguishable from National Parks, and as such should command equivalent recognition in law or support in resources.

While agreeing with the above the response argues that any such name change should represent ‘a step change for AONB teams’ with ‘the ambitious new title encompassing new purposes delivered by skilled teams, sustainable funding and robust governance’.

Forming part of its wider work with the National Association for AONBs (NAAONB), the revamp process comes as research from the NAAONB itself reveals that while 156 million people visit AONBs each year ‘public awareness remains low and the designation is little understood’ and AONBs are 'seen primarily as a descriptive term’.

No one can deny that the word national has served National Parks, The National Trust and more well, immediately invoking sense of historical continuity and pride in the UK’s protected green spaces.

But will supplanting this word onto AONBs really help us view them any differently? If asked to name a National Park or National Trust site, many people would probably be able to throw out at least a name or two.

The same probably can’t be said for the 46 AONBs dotted throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, despite the fact that many are likely to have visited the Mendhip Hills, the Kent Downs and other scenic stretches of the UK that fall under an AONB in the guise of a day tripper or seasoned hiker.

However, there has been at least one instance of the proposed name change put into practice, with the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty renamed Cotswolds National Landscape, with a new logo thrown in for good measure, in 2020 in direct response to the recommendations from Glover’s review.

Chief executive Andy Parsons, commenting at the time, said: “We firmly believe that this landscape is for everyone to enjoy and explore; and we hope that this exciting step will help people to better understand what we’re about – looking after the Cotswolds National Landscape, and helping people connect with nature in the Cotswolds.”

However, it remains to be seen whether the above change led to an increase in engagement with the site.

But perhaps a name change together with the government’s announcement of a new national landscape’s partnership bringing together those responsible for managing England’s National Parks and AONBs, could be just the boost that AONBs need.

The 12-week consultation on the government’s response to the Landscape Review closes on April 9th and can be found here.

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