Key Decision identified as Shropshire Hills AONB Management Plan 2019-24 and Shropshire Hills AONB Terms of Reference in the Notice of Key Decisions published on 12 June 2019.
Councillor H Rhodes, Cabinet Member for Parks, Green Spaces & The Natural Environment presented the report of the Assistant Director: Business, Development and Employment.
The Council had committed to protect, enhance and extend the network of green spaces within Telford and Wrekin which characterised the Town and provided accessible spaces for local communities to enjoy and support the Council’s health and wellbeing agenda. The Borough’s Green Network extended to over 2500 hectares and under its recent Green Guarantee and Local Nature Reserve initiatives the Council had identified, retained and protected over 1000 hectares of important green spaces valued by the local community.
The Wrekin Forest formed significant links between Telford’s urban green network to the north and the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site to the east and was an integral part of Telford’s green infrastructure and ‘Forest City’ heritage. The Wrekin and Ercall hills were regional landmarks and the Council provided protection to this ‘strategic landscape’ which also included flanking woodlands and villages including Little Wenlock and New Works, through planning policy.
It was estimated that up to 120,000 people visited the Wrekin per year. This massive popularity reflected its attraction for those leading healthy lifestyles, providing the facilities and the environment for all ages to enjoy. The work of Discover Telford and the ‘smart packaging’ of the area’s tourism offer focussed on the Wrekin forming part of a wider package of visitor experiences including guided walks, trails and ‘multi-centre’ experiences such as wider heritage and nature itineraries linked with the Ironbridge Gorge, the local woodlands managed by the Severn Gorge Countryside Trust and the Local Nature Reserves and Public Parks in the urban heart of the borough. The approach aimed to increase visitor dwell time, return and benefits to all.
A small part of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) fell within The Wrekin Forest Strategic Landscape and this report sought Cabinet approval for the 2019-2024 AONB Management Plan and the revised Terms of Reference for the AONB Partnership which were both appended to the report.
Local Authorities with an AONB in their boundary had a statutory requirement to produce a Management Plan. The Management Plan set out the priorities for conserving and enhancing the AONB for a five year period. As the AONB extended outside the borough’s boundary and impacts on a wide range of stakeholders the AONB Partnership was established as a joint advisory committee to both Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council. The Council was represented on the Partnership at Officer and Member level. The Partnership had led the update of the Management Plan which had been subject to consultation with the public and a wide range of partner organisations. The amendments to the Partnership’s terms of reference reflected the need to ensure an effective management structure while maintaining links with wider stakeholders.
The Vision for the AONB set out in the Management Plan was that :-
“The natural beauty of the Shropshire Hills landscape is conserved, enhanced and helped to adapt - by sympathetic land management, by co-ordinated action and by sustainable communities; and is valued for its richness of geology, wildlife and heritage, and its contribution to prosperity and wellbeing.”
The revised Management Plan recognised the unique qualities of the element of the AONB that sat within the Borough and the key management policy maintained the protection of the area through planning policy and promoted the ongoing support of local partnerships including the Wrekin Forest Partnership established in 2007.
Collaboration and partnership working would continue to be key to the success of the management and evolution of the AONB in the borough.
RESOLVED – that
(a) the Shropshire Hills AONB Management Plan 2019-24 be approved; and
(b) the revised Terms of Reference for the AONB Partnership be approved.