THE Wye Valley is set to be rebranded from an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to a ‘National Landscape’.
The 126 sq m area straddling the border between Wales and England, following 58 miles along the lower Wye from Chepstow, north to Mordiford, south east of Hereford, was first designated as an AONB in 1971.
It has 27 identified special qualities, from wildlife – such as 25 per cent of Britain’s population of lesser horseshoe bats – to woodlands and landscapes, as well as heritage sites including Tintern Abbey.
But the Wye Valley, along with the four AONBs that are wholly within Wales and the 41 others in England and Northern Ireland, are to be renamed as National Landscapes.
The change is intended to recognise the importance of the areas similar to national parks such as the Brecon Beacons which earlier this year was rebranded using its Welsh name, Bannau Brycheiniog, as its sole corporate identity.
A committee of local councillors and groups from across the area was told the idea is also intended to make the protected conservation areas, currently referred to as AONBs, better known.
A report said: “The title National Landscape does not remove or replace the legal definition of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in law, but is a simpler common name without a complicated acronym.”
The tagline Wye Valley AONB will be used underneath the new name and on branding, with Westminster providing £3,000 to each area to cover the cost of the changes.
The Wye Valley AONB joint committee, which includes three county councillors from Monmouthshire among its Welsh representatives, voted against the rebrand in July, but its most recent meeting, on November 6, was told refusing to accept the rebrand risks uncertainty over future funding from the Westminster government, and possibly the Welsh Government.
It was also told retaining the AONB identity would put it at odds with other areas and could damage relationships and collaborative working with them.
Other changes will require that any public bodies in England making decisions relating to one of the protected areas must seek to further the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area.
That is considered to strengthen the original requirement, which remains in Wales, of having a ‘duty of regard’ – which means authorities can make decisions that they acknowledge will impact a national landscape (or national park) without having to explain how they have taken that into account.
The National Landscapes branding is due to be unveiled in London on November 22 with a similar event to be held in the Senedd in the coming weeks.