Agenda item

Adoption of the Kent Downs AONB Management Plan



The Cabinet were presented with the Kent Downs AONB Management Plan 2021-2026.


Under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act 2000 there was a statutory requirement for local authorities to produce Management Plans for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) within their boundaries and to review them every five years. Where the AONB covered more than one local authority area, then the CRoW Act required them to act jointly in preparing a Management Plan. The Kent Downs AONB Management Plan was prepared by the Kent AONB Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) on behalf of the 12 constituent local authorities. The JAC had prepared a final version of the document for the respective local authorities to adopt.


Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox pointed out a typo in the report; the decision was public not private and the report was still reported as going to Chief Executives Briefing.


The Assistant Director (Planning) fielded questions from the Cabinet and explained that:


·         The AONB document could be enhanced by additional documents and it could be varied by the Council; there was nothing in the document which would affect the Council’s ability to undertake anything or impede the decision making process

·         The AONB Management Plan was available publicly on the Kent Downs website as well as the early drafts of the AONB document. On Gravesham’s website, there was a page specifically dedicated to landscape which held various links to studies and included a link to the Kent Downs AONB Management Plan

·         If Members decided that they wanted the document to become even more accessible then it would need to be raised with the JAC; concerns had been raised previously that having the document in PDF format was not suitable as some text readers that the public used couldn’t read PDF files

·         The responsibility for the Management Plan lay with the Council but there were Member led groups at other authorities who all fed into the existing document which resulted in multiple iterations of the Management Plan. The final Management Plan was prepared by the Kent AONB Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) on behalf of the 12 constituent local authorities

·         The views of land owners were important as much of the AONB land was managed by them and their views were needed for the Plan as much as the people who used the land recreationally

·         The Council contributed financially to the Management Plan but the contribution was modest and it would be more expensive overall if the Council attempted to create a Plan on their own

·         Gravesham’s website linked the public to the previously agreed Kent Downs AONB Management Plan but once Member approval was received, the link would be updated to take the public to the 2021-2026 Management Plan. The Assistant Director (Planning) agreed to check that the document was accessible for those who had difficulty reading PDF documents

·         Representations received through the consultation were directed to officers employed by the JAC so that they could pull all of the views together into a single document but the views received were from Members from each of the twelve local authorities and outside bodies; Members views were fundamental to the creation of the Management Plan


In response to Members concerns regarding public accessibility of the document, the Director (Environment) & Deputy Chief Executive advised that prior to the Cabinet meeting Cllr Sullivan had raised the need to ensure that the Kent Downs AONB Management Plan was actively promoted to the public and accordingly the Council’s Communications Team were already working on this.


Resolved that Cabinet:


1.         Approved the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plan            2021-2026 (Appendix 2) for adoption;

2.         Agreed that adoption of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty        Management   Plan 2021-2026 take effect on a date to be confirmed by the Kent           Downs AONB Unit;

3.         Agreed that the Assistant Director (Planning) be given delegated powers to accept           reasonable minor changes to the document prior to the Plan's formal adoption.


Supporting documents: