Management plan for Solway Coast AONB agreed

Allerdale Borough Council’s Executive committee yesterday (15 July) agreed the five-year management plan for the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Presenting the plan was Cllr John Cook, Executive member with responsibility for tourism, and ward councillor in Silloth where the AONB management team are based.

An area of 115 square km stretching along the coast from Maryport to Carlisle, the AONB is a rich natural and historic environment made up of saltmarsh, sand dunes, peat bogs and historic farmland. Every year the area’s 3,200 residents are vastly outnumbered by the 140,000 overwintering waders and wildfowl, which themselves attract bird lovers from all over the world.

It’s also an area that boasts six Sites of Special Scientific Interest, five nature reserves and the Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alongside its 78 listed buildings and 28 scheduled monuments, are 86km of public footpaths.

The plan sets out a vision for managing such a diverse area to ensure the AONB’s landscape is more resilient and richer in wildlife by 2030. It therefore defines ways to protect the wildlife and landscapes in this unique habitat through sympathetic management and working with the local farming and resident community. The plan also explores the need to better understand and preserve the historic environment.

The way the area benefits the local and wider population is also outlined in the plan, covering topics such as its role in carbon storage, so crucial in tackling climate change; and the way the natural environment provides habitats for pollinators that are so essential for the food and farming industry.

The plan also recognises the area’s health benefits, with one consultee praising its ability to provide “a more balanced way of life where everyone can benefit from slowing down and tuning into nature for wellbeing and appreciation.”

Commenting on the plan, Cllr Cook said: “Although a complex document, a new design approach was taken to make the plan clear, readable, image rich and convey pictorially the essence of the landscape and the sense of place. It is designed for decision makers, officers on the ground and agencies amongst others. But just as importantly it is also designed for local communities to allow them to take action to conserve and enhance the landscape and enjoy living and working in one of the UK’s most special and cherished places.”

The plan has been produced after extensive consultation with key stakeholders and members of the local community. The plan has already been adopted by Cumbria County Council and is due to be considered by Carlisle City Council soon. Officers from these authorities, and Allerdale, as well as Natural England, the Environment Agency and Solway Firth Partnership, make up the Solway Coast AONB Steering Group which oversaw the development of the plan, with guidance from the AONB’s Joint Advisory Committee.