PROJECTS to improve access to the countryside and boost the sustainability of Designated Landscapes are to receive funding of £7.2m, Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn announced today.
£4.7m has been awarded to National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) to be invested in green infrastructure such as electric vehicles, retrofitting existing buildings with energy efficiency measures, and restoring peatland and woodlands.
£100,000 has also been awarded to Pembrokeshire Coast NPA to allow them to lead on the National Landscape Partnership which will foster a closer working relationship across all Designated Landscapes in Wales. This will help ensure National Parks and AONBs are able to develop more joined-up approaches to the challenges and opportunities they have in common.
A further £1.76m has been awarded to Local Authorities to improve Wales’s network of footpaths and bridleways, making them easier to use and more accessible to all. This is in response to people rediscovering local footpaths and trails as part of their daily exercise during the recent Covid lockdown. £337,000 has also been awarded to eleven projects to improve recreational access to water and £309,000 to community orchards and allotments to support community growing projects.
The Deputy Minister made the announcement during a visit to Moel Famau, in the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB which will benefit from £180,000 from this programme to ease traffic congestion, carry out remedial work to address erosion to paths and surrounding land and reduce light pollution. An additional £54,000 is also allocated to Denbighshire County Council for important upgrades to its network of footpaths and bridleways.
The Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said:
“Our National Parks and AONBs cover a quarter of Wales and are hugely important in helping tackle the loss of biodiversity and climate change.
“While our Designated Landscapes are very special to the people of Wales and attract millions visitors each year, access to local green spaces proved just as important during lockdown and this funding demonstrates that we greatly value our local footpaths and other rights of way.
“Following easing of the lockdown, many of our most popular countryside sites have faced significant pressures from large numbers of visitors. While most have visited responsibly, there have been high-profile cases of illegal parking, littering and unregulated camping which have caused damage to our fragile landscapes. This funding has therefore included projects that mitigate the negative environmental effects of tourism such as erosion, littering and pollution.
“As lockdown has eased, the need to invest in a safe, high quality visitor experience for an increasing number of visitors has been highlighted. This, along with the need to make a contribution to tackling climate change, is a major challenge for our Designated Landscapes.
“This funding will support our National Parks and other bodies to address these challenges and to ensure everyone can continue to enjoy our countryside for years to come.”
Councillor Tony Thomas, Cabinet Lead Member for Housing and Communities, who is also the Chair of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Advisory Committee, said:
“We were delighted to welcome the Minister to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and were equally as delighted to receive funding announced for AONBs and national parks.
“The Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB has always proved popular with visitors and residents, with the stunning scenery, magnificent hillsides and historic towns and villages a magnet for thousands of visitors each year.
“Inevitably with increasing numbers of visitors, we do experience some traffic congestion in our most popular scenic attractions and the sheer volume of people venturing into the hills also have an impact on the quality of footpaths over time. This funding will be used towards projects that will help address these issues and protect our landscape for generations to come.”