Scilly’s AONB Wants To Focus On Tourism Economy

AONB postcardScilly’s AONB wants to work more closely with other wildlife and environmental organisations on the islands. And they believe their future role should be to help support the tourism economy, just as much as conservation work.

That’s the initial outcome of a working party, set up to review the future governance of the AONB and presented by manager Trevor Kirk at yesterday’s Advisory Group meeting.

That review was set up in March after their own board felt the organisation lacked effectiveness.

Trevor said the AONB should be making sure that people can enjoy Scilly’s environment and tourism was a priority.

Marian Bennett says visitors come to Scilly for the wonderful scenery and are very aware of environmental issues.

But she said without a good economy, the environment will suffer and they had to recognise that relationship.

Paul St Pierre from the RSPB said Scilly has enviable natural assets, which should be used effectively.

The local authority currently hosts the AONB, but it only has a legal duty to come up with a 5-year environment management plan and to monitor the progress of that.

In theory, said Chairman Johann Hicks, the Council could abolish the AONB and just produce the plan in-house or farm it out to consultants.

But Trevor felt that didn’t give the full picture, saying his group also provides other services, like the recent lighting plan and support for children’s services.

He said they also bring in £4 from the government for every £1 contributed by the Council.

But funding is likely to get squeezed in the coming years, particularly as Defra, who provide over 70% of their budget, could see big cuts in the government’s next austerity package.

Defra are unlikely to have money to fling around in the future, he said.

The Council picks up a further 18% of the bill, but they were asking every department to scrutinise their spending as well, says Trevor.

It means the AONB is going to have to be more creative in how it works with its partners, like the Islands Partnership, Wildlife Trust, Duchy and RSPB. There are suggestions that they could work more closely and even apply for grants together.

It could also see the organisation switching to be a charitable trust in the future, supported by donations and bequests in a similar way to the Wildlife Trust.

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