National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty from across the UK have got together to urge that landscape be placed higher on the political and planning agenda. It's a direct challenge to the UK's governments - but will they listen?
At the biennial conference of UK National Park Authorities in the North York Moors last week, participants put out a call to the Government - and committed themselves - to 'engender renewed awareness of the value of landscape in decision making'.
According to the Landscape Declaration, the 'aesthetic and spiritual qualities of landscapes should be valued alongside the economic and material ones'. The park authorities also recognised the economic importance of unspoilt landscape. And though they accepet that a degree of change is both inevitable and desirable, they think a good appreciation of what is there now is a key starting point to any planning decision. 'The nature and speed of change and the capacity to accommodate it are critical factors in its desirability' says the Declaration.
Andy Wilson, Chief Executive of the North York Moors National Park Authority, said:
'Landscapes are important because they inspire individuals and communities and bring belonging. They define people and nations. We will seek economic value from the beauty of our landscapes in these difficult times - but if we degrade them in the process that cannot be wise.'
Concern that a growing population, climate change and globalisation is threatening our cherished landscapes with a 'tumultuous pace of change' has galvanised those attending the conference to renew their commitment to understanding the landscape and its importance to people and the national psyche.
They have undertaken to consider how greater economic benefit can be achieved from our special landscapes, but emphasise that beauty and special places must not be lost from our lives.
Here is that Declaration in full:
The Landscape Declaration
Made at the UK National Parks conference, North York Moors, September 2013
Landscapes define people and nations. They are constantly evolving and are valued more than ever. A growing national and international population, climate change and globalisation mean that without appropriate action the distinctiveness of landscapes will be eroded more rapidly over the next decade.
Landscape means an area, as perceived by people, the character of which is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors.
An appreciation and understanding of landscape encompasses perceptions from all our senses in reaction to a particular place, together with the memories it evokes and its wider natural and historical associations.
We believe that:
- Landscapes should be celebrated for their contemporary value.
- Landscapes matter to individuals and communities. They are homes to return to, places of escape, places of pride. They bring belonging and sharing of experience.
- People should be involved in decisions which affect landscapes they have a stake in, especially those they live in.
- Wildlife and cultural heritage are essential elements of landscape and central to the sense of place.
- The aesthetic and spiritual qualities of landscapes should be valued alongside the economic and material ones.
- Landscapes have huge economic value from their aesthetic qualities as well as their productive ones.
- Retaining and enhancing the distinctiveness of places should be an aim of policy across all landscapes.
- Maintaining tranquil and 'wild' places is increasingly important as our population grows.
- Some change in landscapes is in general both inevitable and desirable – but a good appreciation of what is there now is important before undertaking change. The nature and speed of change and the capacity to accommodate it are critical factors in its desirability.
- We believe that Protected Landscapes should play their part in promoting the importance of landscape generally.
We believe that the following areas need further thought:
- How to translate Landscape Character Assessments into a form which can be readily used in decision taking.
- How to identify positive change in landscape, for its own sake and from the productive industries within it.
- Whether such positive changes can be actively planned for or should be the result of public participation in individual decisions.
- Finding new ways to help people understand and enjoy landscape.
- Management of the coast - interface of sea and land - needs better integration.
We variously undertake to:
- Use the breadth of understanding that landscape appreciation brings to inform our decision taking on matters including recreation, forestry and planning.
- Strive harder to make special landscapes and seascapes relevant to everyone.
- Manage land positively to enable tourism to operate with minimum impact
- Give greater emphasis to landscape quality and good design in decision making
- Ensure that our landscapes become richer in wildlife.
- Consider how greater economic benefit and employment can be achieved from special landscapes without harming the things that make them special, and act on these conclusions.
- Develop our work on landscape evaluation.
- Share our understanding and experience with all other landscapes including those valued locally.
- Use our landscapes as a means of engaging people with all aspects of the natural and cultural environment
- Ask our Governments to consider carefully the importance of the settings of our Protected Landscapes.
We urge our Governments to help promote a renewed awareness of the value of landscape in policy and decision making which affects places.