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We propose two new National Landscapes for Herefordshire

A view of the open Black Mountains above hedged farmland
The Black Mountains Joseph Andrews

Herefordshire, being predominantly agricultural, boasts some stunning landscapes and wildlife-rich areas. However the county only includes 2 small parcels of National Landscapes, shared with neighbouring counties. These form part of the Malvern Hills and the (lower) Wye Valley National Landscapes. We explore the historical reasons for this and call for our precious western uplands to come under the protection of National Landscape status.

The back story

In 1950 the Countryside Commission suggested areas across the country to nominate as National Parks or AONBs (now known as National Landscapes). These included both the Radnor Forest and Black Mountains areas, to be part of a Clun-Radnor Forest and Brecon Beacons National Landscapes respectively. In both cases, the idea of including parts of Herefordshire was abandoned due the ‘administrative complications’ of cross-border designations between England and Wales.

In 2012 we produced the report A New AONB for the Marches? Exploring the case for more Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This focussed on those very areas of West Herefordshire, earmarked before by the Countryside Commission but never designated.

Map showing the proposed AONBs
The new National Landscapes we propose, borders shown by gray triangles

In 2013 we formally submitted the report to Natural England, supported by Herefordshire Council. Natural England had just begun a new timetable for reviewing new or extended designations and included our proposal in this. However, soon afterwards they suspended the programme, to concentrate on a massive backlog of boundary variations.

At a standstill?

In the latest update to the designation programme we still seem to be lurking off the bottom of the list. Moreover, we fear that many proposals like ours are stuck in Natural England’s stalled programme of work. There is a real danger of a planning “dead zone” along the Wales-England border, due to bureaucratic difficulties put in the way of designating areas that straddle the boundary.

The aim of designation is that community and business life should carry on, change, and grow within the context of protecting a beautiful landscape and habitat. Designating the two areas in West Herefordshire would also enable fantastic habitat connectivity, by physically linking larger protected areas. We continue our calls for designation for our lovely uplands.