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Natural England’s Woeful Proposed Area for the Yorkshire Wolds as an AONB

9th October 2022

Natural England has published its first draft of its proposed new candidate designation for the Yorkshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and we simply think it does not go far enough.

The Map below shows the 2 proposed areas as hashed green stripes. This is the area that Natural England (NE) has proposed to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) with the highest level of landscape protection in planning terms in the UK, the same level of protection given to National Parks. The smallest area covers a section of the beach around Flamborough Headland.

Whilst the area it covers is indeed special, it falls far too short by not including the majority of the impressive East Yorkshire Wolds, including amongst many other areas, the market town of Driffield known as ‘The Capital of the Wolds’, the historic ‘Wolds Valley’ following the Gypsey Race, or the beautiful white chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head and Bempton Cliffs of renowned bird-life fame, which whilst part of the Heritage Coast, do not benefit from the same landscape protection as AONBs and National Parks. These areas, we’re sure you’ll agree, are not only rich in natural beauty and biodiversity but also hold such valuable cultural heritage, worthy of protection through the designation.

We at CPRE North and East Yorkshire actually think the majority of the area known as the ‘Yorkshire Wolds’ should be included in the AONB including all the parts in East Riding, stretching into Ryedale and Scarborough districts shown in grey below in NE’s original Area of Search. This would follow the ‘extension’ of the Lincolnshire Wolds AONB northwards from the Humber Estuary and effectively link the two areas which consist of the same chalk stream, before disappearing under the sea at Flamborough and rising again in Norway.

Whilst fully supportive of the AONB designation and the area that has been proposed (mainly within parts of Ryedale District and Scarborough Borough areas), the majority of the Yorkshire Wolds which fall within East Yorkshire, has been completely ignored, including areas immortalised in art by David Hockney’s ‘Yorkshire Wolds Landscapes’ series and the spectacular 400ft chalk cliffs of Speeton, Flamborough Headland and Bempton Cliffs. Natural England have suggested that these areas should not be included as their beauty has been diminished by a proliferation of holiday accommodation sites (amongst other things). – We believe that those visitors come to the area as it is so beautiful and unique in the North of England! Furthermore, whilst we seek to protect the headland (currently a Heritage Coast which lacks the same planning controls as an AONB designation) from further expansion of such holiday parks, we recognise that tourism brings a huge economic boost for the area and as such the designation of the area as an AONB can benefit the visitor economy massively.

CPRENEY hope to work specifically with the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, who are equally as disappointed that their area has been side-lined, to create a meaningful response to the next phase of consultation. It is hoped that the initial candidate area will indeed alter in scale and recognise the special landscape, biodiverse and cultural heritage qualities this area has in abundance. We are aware that Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and other leading stakeholders are equally as frustrated with the narrow area considered at present.

Natural England state that ‘for an area to be included in the provisional Candidate Area for designation it must have outstanding natural beauty, significant at a national level, and thus be suitable for AONB designation status.’ We believe the majority of the Yorkshire Wolds in both North and East Yorkshire demonstrably meets these criteria. Indeed, their own National Character Area which sets out landscape types describes the Yorkshire Wolds as forming ‘an arc of high, gently rolling ground extending from the Humber Estuary west of Hull, to the North Sea coast at Flamborough Head, north of Bridlington’.

The engagement opportunity that has just finished was a starting point, to begin the conversation with stakeholders and the public on an informal basis. There will be further, more formal opportunities to submit your views, especially during the formal public consultation process. This will hopefully take place in approximately 1 year, once further detailed technical assessments have been completed and a detailed proposed boundary produced. All the evidence will be available for you to view at that time. There will then be another phase of analysis of consultation responses, which may lead to further changes to the potential designation area. If a proposal for a new AONB is subsequently approved by the Natural England Board, a statutory Notice Period would be undertaken providing a further opportunity to comment. After that any final proposal is submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation.

We will continue to keep you informed of engagement opportunities when the formal consultation is approaching and hope that as many of you as possible will feel you can support us in responding to the consultation to put across your views with the aim of increasing the candidate area for designation in this extraordinary special area.

Why is the Yorkshire Wolds being considered for Designation

Natural England is the Government’s adviser on the natural environment and has powers under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to consider which areas of countryside are nationally important for their outstanding natural beauty and then to designate such areas as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, if it is desirable to do so for the purpose of conserving and enhancing their natural beauty.

In June 2021, a written ministerial statement by Secretary of State, George Eustice (Defra) announced that Natural England ‘will be taking forward the government’s commitment to designate additional protected landscapes and is currently considering the designation of four new areas’. This includes the possible designation of a new Yorkshire Wolds AONB.

Full details of Natural England’s subsequent announcement can be seen via the link below:

Photo by Martin Sepion on Unsplash