Adoption, promotion and implementation
3. The product – contents of an AONB Management Plan
3.1. General principles
The structure, presentation and content of the Management Plan will be influenced by the priority given to different plan purposes (see Section 1.2.3 Why plan? on page 18). CRoW requires that an AONB Management Plan must contain policies for management of the area and information on how the local authorities or conservation board (in practice, the AONB partnership) intend to carry out their function in relation to the AONB. An effective Plan will always exceed this
minimum statutory requirement, and should be presented in a way that emphasises the multiple inputs that are required if Plan objectives are to be achieved. The roles of the AONB partnership and the AONB unit do not need to be presented separately from the roles of other partners.
The following questions need to be considered before the first draft is produced:
•Who will read it? This will determine issues such as its length, style and
presentation, the number of copies to be produced, and the unit cost.
•Will there be a separate summary plan? If so the two documents
can address different audiences and play different functions. The summary plan can be designed for public information and for promotional purposes whilst the main plan can be the policy and working document for AONB partners.
•Will there be a separate Action Plan? Experience suggests this
usually works well. It means that the main (Strategy) Plan can present the context and analysis, and the AONB policies, while the Action Plan can focus on the tasks and outputs expected of each partner, and can be more frequently updated.
•Should there be appendices? A good deal of complex material
might be considered essential to a full Plan but could make it unwieldy and difficult to read. By putting technical and descriptive material in an appendix (which can be separate from the bound plan) the main Plan can be a much shorter and more accessible document which can focus on the AONB vision and policies. Information must be presented in a clear and logical manner and in language that is easily understood by all readers. It is also important not to make assumptions or take for granted the level of existing knowledge of the reader: one approach is to assume the reader is intelligent but ignorant. Policies, objectives and actions should be supported by reasoned justifications and presented logically. Presenting policies without such justification may weaken them in the eyes of some readers, and as a result they might be dropped when the plan is revised. A paragraph or section coding system can be used to relate plan issues, policies and actions together. Coding should always be as simple as possible, or else its impact is diminished.
It is quite likely only a few people will ever read an AONB
Management Plan from cover to cover. Most will scan through looking for elements that are of particular interest to them, and then focus on just a few pages. This means that:
•The structure of the Plan should be simple and clearly signposted.
•Each section should stand alone (albeit cross-referenced to other
relevant sections). This inevitably means that there will be a certain amount of repetition within the Plan.
It is easy to end up producing a dry document which may come over as soulless and formulaic. Consideration should be given to using a professional author to write, or edit, the final version so it reads well. It can also be countered by attractive presentation, and by stimulating the reader’s interest in the beauty and wonder of the AONB itself. It may be helpful to include photographs of landscapes or people, and extracts from literary or artistic works relating to the area, to help bring the plan’s policies to life.
Every AONB Plan needs to address the AONB from a number of very different perspectives. One difficult decision in presenting the plan is to work out how to categorise these different topics. Some need to be identified as main subject heads, others will be cross cutting themes. All will relate in some way to each other. A final decision about this will be informed by the participation process, and also by
consideration of how best the Plan can influence key partners. Management topics can be handled in two broad ways:
1. Encapsulate the whole AONB and all topics within the planning sequence (i.e. main sections in the plan might be description, vision, policies etc.).
2. Have separate chapters for each main topic, for example landscape, local community issues and access to the countryside (each section includes sub-sections on description, issues, policies etc.).
Most AONB planners have gone for option 2, or a variation on it, as outlined in Section 3.3 Common themes in AONB Management Plans on page 49. Whatever approach is adopted there must be coherence across the whole Plan - ensuring that the end product is not a dozen separate Plans bound together in a single document.
Careful consideration should be given as to whether the policies expressed in the plan should be zoned. Zoning may enable particular suites of policies may be ‘tailored’ to specific areas of the AONB. However it may also undermine the coherence of the AONB, and care should be taken that zoning is done in a way that enhances rather than undermines unity and consistency. Particularly where the AONB covers several different planning authority areas it is important to make sure that zones do not simply reinforce the differences between the policies of constituent local authorities. Zoning based on Countryside Character Areas, reflecting tangible differences visible on the ground, is normally to be preferred.
In general, zoning is less of a feature in AONB Plans than it is with other plans which relate to a single planning authority (e.g. National Park Plans). Even when a Plan does use geographical zones to help clarify where different policies apply, zonation should always be subsidiary to the key thematic topics addressed by the Plan.