Every child should have the chance to spend one night ‘under the stars’ says report
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Proposal is part of wide-ranging review which could shake-up the way the region’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are managed.
East Anglia's Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) should be used to give every schoolchild the chance to camp out "under the stars" for a least one night, a major new report has recommended.
The idea is one of 27 proposals found in the Landscapes Review, which says new approaches are needed to get the most out of England's best-loved landscapes, including its National Parks and AONBs.
The independent review, led by writer Julian Glover, was commissioned in the wake of the government's 25 Year Environmental Plan and its long-awaited findings, published on Saturday, propose a huge shake-up of how the country's designated landscapes are managed as society faces up to key challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and a changing, urban population.
If many of the recommendations are taken up, it could have wide-ranging implications for the region's three AONBs; Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, Dedham Vale AONB on the Suffolk-Essex border and Norfolk Coast AONB,
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Other suggestions put forward by the review panel include a transformed approach to recover and enhance nature, working with farmers and conservation groups to reverse years of decline and bring landscapes alive, and giving AONBs a greater say in the planning process where potential developments impact their areas.
The idea of using AONBS and National Parks to allow children to camp out under the stars came after research found that 13% of children typically never visit the natural environment or even spend any of their leisure time outdoors. Children from black, Asian and minority ethnic, and low income, communities are even less likely to do so.
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This ambition to connect more people with nature has been welcomed by Nigel Chapman, who is chair of the Dedham Vale AONB.
He said: "The review and proposals will, I trust, set in motion a long held desire of mine for improved access into our landscapes for the wide diversity of people living in Essex and Suffolk today.
This will support improvements to the health and wellbeing of us all. We urge the Government to follow up the recommendations with legislation and financial support as soon as possible."
Other recommendations include the formation of a new National Landscapes Service to bring the National Parks and AONBs together and set greater ambitions and the provision of "new protections, responsibilities, titles and funding for AONBs to help them be greener, more beautiful and more welcoming to the public".
Chair of the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, David Wood, said he was "delighted with the review".
He added: "All the proposals are welcome and will only strengthen how AONBs locally and nationally step up to take on increased responsibility for our outstanding and beautiful landscapes. The recommendations mean that at long last we are getting the recognition we fully deserve."