On his visit to Chesham on 7 June 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reported as expressing his support for a campaign which seeks to redesignate the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as a National Park. As the statutory body with responsibility for conserving and enhancing the Chilterns AONB and increasing the understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities, the Chilterns Conservation Board makes the following statement.
It is the policy of the Chilterns Conservation Board, as set out in its Management Plan 2019-2024, Caring for the Chilterns forever and for everyone (p.24), to:
- “Explore the case for and against the Chilterns having enhanced status or being designated a National Park”, and
- “Review the boundary of the protected area to cover the wider area of the Chilterns landscape that merits it.”
In 2018, the Government commissioned an independent review of protected landscapes. The Chilterns Conservation Board submitted evidence which included the proposal that the Chilterns AONB’s designation status be elevated to that of a National Park.
The subsequent report – the Landscapes Review or the “Glover Review” – was published in September 2019. One of its key proposals was the designation of new AONBs and National Parks, with the Chilterns being highlighted as the “obvious choice” for re-designation as a National Park.
The Prime Minister signalling his commitment to the Chilterns National Park this week is therefore in line with the Glover report proposals and his own commitment to designate new National Parks, as announced last November in his 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.
We believe that National Park designation is the best way for us to address the huge challenges facing the Chilterns landscape, whilst also helping improve its resilience for nature and for people. We also believe it is also the best tool in the box to deliver a range of the Government’s policy objectives. In November 2020, the late Dame Cheryl Gillan MP, who championed a Chilterns National Park, set out the clear case for the Chilterns National Park in an article in The House magazine.
We also agree with the conclusion of the Landscapes Review that, while ‘National Park status offers wider benefits and should be pursued as the preference’, there may be alternative means to achieve similar or better outcomes for the protected landscape in the 21st century. We are therefore committed to working in partnership with Natural England, our local authorities and other stakeholders in the region to co-create a new way forward, if the Government determines that redesignation as a National Park is not currently an option.
In parallel with our ambition for the status of the Chilterns to be enhanced – potentially through designation as a National Park – it is also our policy to secure extensions to the area covered by the protected landscape designation, whether as a National Park, continuing as an AONB or through other arrangements. We therefore submitted an outline proposal for a boundary extension to Natural England in 2013. Extending the coverage of the protected landscape would align with the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan, and particularly his commitment to protect 30% of England’s land by 2030.
Our ambition to protect more of the wider Chilterns landscape remains undiminished, along with our commitment to secure improved protection for the Chilterns through National Park status. We continue to make the case to Natural England and look forward to exploring opportunities to make our ambition a reality.