Q & A Discussion Panel Report – Day One

Question One

Chris Reynolds asking a questionChris Reynolds, Kent Downs AONB: “We’ve talked about delivery and the importance of landowners. I think one of the problems we face in the sector is about guidance and direction – there’s too much choice if you like. William Worsley highlighted the difficulties in going from CCS to HLS. Could anybody guide on this? We need a big national plan.
This is very difficult to achieve, but do you have any thoughts?”

Maddy Jago: I suppose what strikes me is that we are at a cusp and looking at what CAP will deliver in the next round. I know there is a lot of nervousness in that we may be looking at a less beneficial package than we’ve had in the past. This will be challenging. I think the idea of a bigger programme is tempting but the expectation that there will be the public resource to finance this I think is probably beyond reality. I haven’t got a good news reply for you – but what I like is that sense of “we can all work together” to create some strategy around this. I don’t think it’s something for government to impose. We are very much in a place of creating tools, creating evidence, and giving information to enable people to make the right decisions and the right choices.

Roger Thomas: Trying to be a little different in Wales we are having discussions about how we might develop our plans locally that recognises for example where we might want to pay landowners to manage the land to keep carbon within them. Thirty percent of carbon in Wales is stored in peat, but only three percent of the land is peat. However, to recreate it, if it was lost, would cost us £5 billion. So it’s a relatively small amount to pay to keep the carbon there, but a colossal sum if we lost it. But paying people to keep something that is there is never very sexy!

Question Two

Paul Jackson, Howardian Hills AONB: Who will be preparing site design briefs and what is the role of AONBs in influencing these?

Roger Thomas: It’s in its infancy at the moment but site design brief in Bridgend is one that planners are putting together. What we have to remember in all this is that the landowner has to have a say in what happens. The role I see for AONBs is to help us develop ideas on the ground on a wide basis because AONBs understand communities, local knowledge and data.

 Question Three

 Gwyn Harris-Jones, Anglesey AONB: AONBs have problems with what I call “steamrollers”. Our particular “steamroller” is that we have been declared an “energy island” and as a consequence have a “steamroller” in the name of the National Grid because we have a new nuclear power station and numerous wind turbine proposals – it’s quite a horrendous scenario. I think we’d like to see some sort of power to encourage appropriate sighting of infrastructure and compensation – is there a body that could give consideration to that?

Sir John Lawton: The first meeting of the committee to look at trying to put a value on ecosystem services was either this week or last week. I doubt given the timescales anything will happen to help you, but the ideal they are trying to develop is define the current value of ecosystem services delivered by the Anglesey landscape, including tourism, cultural value and so on so that you can look at the economic cost of using underground power cables or not versus the value of those landscapes and figure out how much money by an apparently cheaper option such as pylons. But how quickly this will happen, or if the government will accept it – who knows?

Discussion panel at the conference

 Question Four

It’s really an observation but one of the things that hasn’t been spoken about today when we’ve talked much about the future, is about the skills people are going to require to actually deliver what we’ve been talking about. I wonder where the skills and training agenda fits in?

Chris Woodley-Stewart: As well as a focus on volunteering and building capacity in the community I look around and I know that many AONB teams are involved in formal training schemes through things like HLS Heritage Skills to create the wallers and hedge layers of the future. This is at the heart of what many of us do.

William Worsley: I think skills’ training is incredibly important. Speaking as a hands on land manager finding people with appropriate land management skills is becoming very difficult. All the contractors I tend to use are getting older and there is a dearth of people who want to undertake more manual skills such as chainsaw work. This is going to cause problems and it is something we need to focus on.

Lucy Barron: In our NIA we are have an apprenticeship scheme and a project with Rural Skills Cumbria to provide a suite of training opportunities both for existing contractors and those who wish to go into the sector.

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