A stitch in time for Snowdonia?

Originally featured in our membership magazine, Viewpoint, John Harold from the Snowdonia Society talks about what the future holds for the National Park.

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Snowdonia Society’s founding, a milestone at which to pause for reflection. Our practical conservation work programme is stronger than ever, but our campaigning work continues to be needed.

A raft of devolved environmental legislation affecting the Welsh National Parks recently came into force. Like an iceberg, Wales is calving from the other UK nations. Has Wales set off in the right direction? The signs are hard to read.

Snowdon range from Llynnau Mymbyr, Sandra Starkey

The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and the Well-Being of Future Generations Act 2015 embody some radical thinking and there is much to welcome. We must remember however that the approaches are untried and the language is of a kind beloved of policy makers for its flexibility of meaning.

Take, for example, Area Statements. These are specified in the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 as the building blocks of the new approach to natural resource management and the delivery of ‘well-being’. National Parks would make ideal blueprints for piloting such an approach but unfortunately it seems that Area Statements are to be based instead on clusters of local authorities. This could make translation between Area Statements and National Park plans a challenge.

An ‘ecosystem approach to sustainable management of natural resources’ could lead us to breathtaking sunlit uplands or it could be cover for an ‘anything goes’ version of business as usual. ‘Resilience’ is the new word for ‘biodiversity’, which in its time supplanted ‘wildlife’ and ‘nature’. At each step the language floats further from the meaning.

The formation of a unified environmental body – Natural Resources Wales – remains far from successful in integrating conflicting functions and finding any sort of voice on nature and landscape.

We learn that designated landscapes – our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) - must be ‘factories of well-being’ and the language is imposing itself on the ideas underlying our outdoor NHS.

It would take a sage or a fool to predict the outcome of Welsh Government’s inscrutable Future Landscapes Wales programme review of National Parks and AONBs; a long-anticipated announcement is due any day. Will any attention be given to the recommendations from the Review of Designated Landscapes in Wales which preceded the Future Landscapes Wales review?

The view from Snowdon summit, SNPA

In 50 years much has changed for the Snowdonia Society and the context within which we work in Wales. But change for Snowdonia itself has been more glacial; a chipping off here, a little slippage there. Fifty years should be as nothing for Snowdonia. We need to remind those with influence that we have to get decisions right each and every time to achieve lasting protection of our most prized places.

Our greatest challenge right now is also our greatest opportunity. We need to show that unspoilt places are not an opportunity cost for frustrated developers. We need to celebrate that our National Parks are miracles in a crowded island, which grow in value each day they exist.

At that level the challenges are the same across the family of UK National Parks. We need to work together on the big picture and help shape the direction of travel as well as responding to local issues in their particular context. We look forward to working in partnership and meeting the challenges and opportunities in Snowdonia and all our National Parks in coming decades.

To find out more about the Snowdonia Society, visit their website.

Please note, the opinions expressed in all our blogs are of the author, and not endorsed by Campaign for National Parks. We are hosting blogs on a variety of subjects to provoke thought and discussion about National Parks.