Preserving the borough’s beauty
At a meeting (Tuesday 10 September), Cabinet agreed the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Management Plan, which sets out its vision for the next five years and replaces the previous management plan that expires this year.
The AONB covers around a third of the borough, including the fabled Watership Down area, on the Hampshire/Berkshire border, made famous by Richard Adams in his world-renowned children’s tale about the rabbits living there.
Other places within the North Wessex Downs AONB are the Bourne Valley, Highclere Castle, Beacon Hill, Whitchurch and Kingsclere. It extends from Woolton Hill, Litchfield and St Mary Bourne in the west to Hannington and Ramsdell in the east.
As part of its duty to manage part of the land, the council belongs to the North Wessex Downs Council of Partners, which reviewed the previous management plan and sets out guidelines for the newly-adopted plan. The total budget for the AONB management in 2019/20 is £322,604 with £248,604 from DEFRA and the remainder funded by the partners, including a contribution made by Basingstoke and Deane of £3,938.66.
The North Wessex Downs area was nationally designated for AONB conservation in 1972 due to its special qualities, such as flora, fauna, scenic views, historical and cultural associations.
Cabinet Member for Planning, Infrastructure and Natural Environment Cllr Mark Ruffell said: “The council is committed to protecting and enhancing its landscapes, heritage, biodiversity and the communities which live within it. By supporting this management plan for the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty we are helping to preserve this beautiful area for years to come.”