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How to preserve Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Kent

PUBLISHED: 10:31 08 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:25 21 November 2016

A typical view of the North Downs

A typical view of the North Downs

Nicholas Mosienko

Farmers and land managers have an important role to play in ensuring Kent’s distinctive rural areas are sustained for future generations to enjoy. Words by: Allan Buckwell

Kent’s two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty were rightly celebrated in the recent Outstanding Week, which highlighted their national importance and the need to ensure their character and qualities are protected for all to enjoy.

As well as being beautiful areas of countryside, the Kent Downs and High Weald AONBs are also living, working landscapes.

The referendum vote for Brexit has created a period of uncertainty in the countryside and the CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses is concerned that the uncertainty over trade relationships and the future funding for food, farming and the environment could place these areas and the wider countryside at risk of being economically and environmentally unviable.

Although we are assured that the current support for agriculture and rural development will continue at the same level until the end of 2020, after that is unknown. We believe the Government has a duty to ensure that food, farming and the environment are not let down by a lack of funding, because communities, businesses, landscapes and wildlife are all dependent on the viability of the rural economy.

These concerns were underlined by the recent annual State of Nature report which made sobering reading. It painted a clear picture of significant decline over 40 years and how much there is to do to halt the decline and reintroduce habitats and species into our natural environment.

However, it also showed encouraging signs of successful population growth in certain species, and that the effort farmers and others have put into environmental land management over recent years is bearing fruit.

Many farmers and landowners in Kent are already working to protect and enhance the natural environment by providing wildlife corridors, nesting opportunities for wild farmland birds and pollinators, flood risk management and water quality initiatives.

As we start to develop rural policy for a UK outside the EU, it is critical that a proper understanding is established between farmers and environmental groups. Only a profitable, resilient farming sector can realistically invest time and resource in environmental management.

We encourage green groups to acknowledge that farmers are best placed to continue to deliver biodiversity improvements, and to share their ideas and experience in formulating policy to deliver a better state of nature for our nation.

With this in mind, the CLA has published six fundamental principles for the new Food, Farming and Environmental Policy in post-Brexit Britain:

• A productive, competitive farming and forestry sector: the policy must enable UK farmers to be competitive on international markets

• Food security: the policy must promote innovative, sustainable ways to increase production and manage risk

• Enhancing the environment: the policy must be more ambitious than its predecessors in meeting environmental challenges

• A dedicated UK budget: Government must provide sufficient funds for the policy across the whole of the UK

• Value for Money: the policy must deliver value for money in the way it is implemented and in the outcomes it delivers to the benefit of everyone

• Clear, proportionate regulation: the standards that must be met should be clear, with support provided to help businesses achieve compliance.

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