2017 Report & Press Release on the AONB Forum
The 2017 AONB forum, held at Shrubs Farm Lamarsh, was a hugh success, with over 80 people in attendance to hear speakers such as:
- Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity
- Howard Davies, Chief Executive of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONBs)
- Professor Jules Pretty, Professor of Environment & Society and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Essex
- Tracey Brinkley, Tourism Development Officer at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils
- Plus the AONB Chairmen and Manager
PRESS RELEASE - Outstanding Landscapes Ensure our ‘Natural’ Health Service works for everyone
Outstanding landscapes provide the best natural health service. But this message isn’t reaching everyone, concluded speakers and delegates from government, academia, environmental organisations and local authorities at the recent Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley Forum held at Shrubs Farm, Lamarsh near Sudbury.
The annual Forum has become a barometer of what’s affecting the people and wildlife of the Stour Valley, and with Brexit very much to the fore the AONB Project was very pleased that Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, could share with the Forum the government’s commitment to the 25 year plan to enhance the environment.
After being welcomed by Robert Erith, Chair of the AONB and Stour Valley Partnership, Lord Gardiner told delegates: “The British countryside is our most precious natural asset. The success of our stewardship will be judged by those who succeed us. I will champion those places as Defra’s rural ambassador.” Regarding Brexit, Defra want to hear and engage with farmers and landowners widely to ensure the vibrancy of farming businesses.
Lord Gardiner was also aware that the beautiful landscape was integral to physical and mental health, tourism, food production, the economy, and employment. “We need to ensure that the next generation have opportunities in the environment and management sector.”
Human involvement in shaping nature was a theme that Howard Davies, Chief Executive of the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (NAAONBs) subscribed to. “In the AONBs, natural features meet human endeavour. The nation is aware of their importance, but it is down to local action to sustain them. Our role, whether emotional, academic or scientific, in caring for these places is absolutely vital.”
Howard Davies pointed out that while the cost to the country of maintaining the Dedham Vale AONB is about half a pence per person per year, the impact on the health and well-being to the visitors is enormous.
Professor Jules Pretty, Professor of Environment & Society and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Essex, shared his research into the benefits of nature. “We have shown that a five-minute dose of nature brings immediate well-being. It works for all people, young and old, rich and poor, all cultural groups, in all green environments whether urban park of nature reserve, whether wild or farmed, small or large.”
Jules Pretty asked: What can AONBs do to engage people for life? There were a number of challenges to be addressed, such as the design of our lived-in environment and public transport systems, institutional inertia, cultural barriers, lack of interest by young people especially in the 6-11 year age group.
“Immersive attention is the key concept. Being outside, in nature, is the best health service for the nation,” added Professor Pretty.
What’s good for our physical wellbeing is also good for our finances. A very successful development in Suffolk has been the formation of partnerships between local tourism businesses and councils resulting in some excellent tourism initiatives on the ground.
“Within each Tourism Character Areas (TCAs), clusters of tourism and leisure businesses will be actively engaging visitors in inspiring and authentic experiences linked to some of the most attractive countryside, villages and market towns in England,” explained Tracey Brinkley, Tourism Development Officer at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils. She highlighted the work of the Stour Valley Tourism Action Group and its emphasis on artists as a means of building up the visitor offering, and flagged up the River Stour Festival in 2018.
Of over-riding interest to many delegates was the planned extension of the AONB boundary area, and the possible introduction of Dark Sky Parks accreditation. A full report of the Forum is available from the AONB Project.
Councillor Nigel Chapman, Chairman, Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Joint Advisory Committee (JAC), summed up the AONB’s response: “We must recognise that the population of the area will continue to increase dramatically, and some of those people will want to enjoy, exercise and relax in the AONB and the wider Valley. We must be ready to welcome and to cope with them.”
For more information, photos of the speakers, and copy of the Report on the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Forum, please contact Cathy Smith, Communications, Funding and Development Officer, or Simon Amstutz, AONB Manager: Tel. 01394 445225; E: firstname.lastname@example.org