UK Government responds to wild land petition

Trust calls for Minister's words to be turned into action in 2013

The UK government has now responded to the John Muir Trust’s petition to Westminster calling for the protection of disappearing wild land.

In a Defra statement on the petition, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson said: “The Government recognise the importance of protecting our finest landscapes and the health and well-being benefits that access to the natural environment can bring,”

Sheila Wren, the Trust’s Advocacy Officer, welcomed the Minister’s statement while warning that sympathetic words must now be backed up by concrete action. “We appreciate the fact that the Minister has taken time to respond positively to the John Muir Trust’s petition on wild land, but we need these words to be turned into action in 2013.

“For decades our wild land has been on the retreat in the face of the advance of commercial development across a range of fronts, from suburban housing estates to shopping malls and energy transmission pylons. In recent years, industrial scale wind power developments have begun to infringe on our remaining wild land.

“Specifically, we are urging the Government to approve the extensions to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks as recommended by Natural England, which would add 488 square kilometres to protected areas, and to support the undergrounding of transmission lines in protected areas”

Expressing concern that recent changes in planning regulations could weaken existing protections for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), Sheila said: “Along with the Campaign for National Parks and many other conservation and environmental organisations, we believe it is essential the current levels of protection should remain in place.”

The Trust also notes the pressure on high quality wild land in Mid Wales due to renewable energy infrastructure, and urges governments across the UK to seek solutions to energy transmission and distribution that avoid new development on fast-disappearing wild land.

Montgomeryshire MP Glyn Davies, who lodged the petition last year on behalf of the John Muir Trust, said: “The Welsh landscape is particularly beautiful and some of its wild land warrants special protection. I have long considered the Cambrian Mountains worthy of AONB status”.

Land and planning in Wales falls under the jurisdiction of the Welsh Assembly. Scotland also has its own devolved land and planning regulations as well as a different designation system.