Results of our informal Management Plan survey

The Management Plan is the High Weald AONB’s most important document; it sets out objectives for conserving and enhancing this special place, and the local authorities’ ambitions for how the landscape will be looked after for the next 5 years.

The High Weald AONB Team is currently working on the next iteration of the Management Plan, due in 2024. With that in mind we put out a short survey on our website at the end of 2022, asking the public whether they currently used the Plan and how people felt about proposed new topics in the next Plan.

PLEASE NOTE: All quotes are published in full and unedited, and come from feedback requested in the survey.

Current use of Management Plan:
We first asked whether respondents had heard of, and used our Management Plan. Fifty eight percent answered that they were aware the High Weald AONB had a management plan, and over half of those had used the management plan, for mainly either conservation or planning purposes.

“The climate and biodiversity crises should have high priority in the next High Weald AONB Management Plan and should be referenced in the other topic areas/ chapters of the Plan…”

97% agree nature recovery & climate crisis should be included:
We wanted to know if people agreed that sections specifically on nature recovery and the climate crisis should be within the next Management Plan. This is something that the High Weald AONB Team support, however given that the plan is for everyone who uses the AONB whether that be for leisure, work or as a resident, we wanted to gauge public opinion, and we can report that 97 % agreed with us.

“It is vital that we protect our flora and fauna, without it we are lost…”

Additional topics:
We also asked what other topics people would like to see covered in the next Management Plan. There were a range of responses, the most popular being:

  • Stronger emphasis on stopping inappropriate housing development.
  • Water management, including both pollution and to changing rainfall patterns with increasing drought and flooding events.
  • Light pollution and the impact on local wildlife.
  • How and whether renewable energy options such as wind farms and solar should and can incorporated into the High Weald landscape.

“I would like the plan to include ways to address light pollution, particularly from bright LED and flood lights, which are being used more in rural areas as well as towns and villages…” 

The good news is that these topics are all addressed more fully in the next Management Plan.  

Dark Skies is now its own key component of the High Weald’s natural beauty and will be reflected as such in the Management Plan, with objectives and actions for preserving our dark skies.

The new climate and nature recovery sections will address nature-based and technological solutions to the net-zero carbon goals and condition of water ways respectively, with specific priorities for the High Weald AONB.

Whilst the High Weald AONB is not a planning authority, the new Management Plan aims to better support residents, parishes and community groups to use the Management Plan in responding to planning applications within their patch of the AONB.  

“Unless designations such as AONBs have real value and strength they will be constantly challenged and watered down to the detriment of nature and future generations…”

Soil health and farming:
We also asked whether people were aware of the important role soil plays to planetary health, including carbon storage and sequestration, and how important it is to ensure our soils are healthy. Again, nearly all respondents were aware of this.

The High Weald AONB Team has done extensive work to raise awareness of soil health in recent years, especially through promotion of regenerative agriculture. There were also comments supporting the High Weald’s farmed landscape – specifically the protection of, and recognition of the importance of farmland for food security, and the continued viability of farm businesses. The High Weald is a working farmed landscape, and this is an important topic for us.

“Emphasis should be placed on protecting farming/arable land for food production, this should not be swallowed up in a drive for rewilding and indiscriminate, inappropriate tree planting.”

We appreciate that people took the time to complete this survey, and hope that even more of you will consider feeding back on the draft version of the Management Plan later this year.

Thank you.

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