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Shropshire AONB Committee Meeting


Paul Humphreys
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Shropshire Area Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) committee meeting.

It was on Thursday 19th October at 10am. It was chucking it down with rain in Craven Arms and so our feelings were some what low as we knew that the Area Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) committee was one of the biggest hurdles we had to face yet. The committee is one of the biggest in the county with some 30-40 members with not one motorised user on the committee. Anyway the meeting was set for some 2 hours of which seemed like an eternity.

Upon entering the room we were presently surprised at the welcome we had. The chairman shook our hands and Shropshire county council officers wished us luck. I put the CRAGs printed presentation handouts on the desks for all to digest prior to the start of the meet. People seemed to be very interested and thoroughly viewed the handout with some good glancing nods and smiles. Anyhow the meeting started and slowly we went through the agenda voting chairman and so on. Then the agenda got to motorised use in the AONB area. Three 10 minute presentations.

First of the block was Richard knights Shropshire CC Rights Of Way (ROW) presentation which was very much to the point with a educational talk about road status and classes and types of surfaces etc. Then Richard proceeds to show before and after situation on some of the lanes. The proactive approach they have taken working with The Countryside Recreational Access Group (CRAG). Motorised users using volunteer help to maintain and monitor their network showing how successful it has been with future plans. Their recommendations were not to have a blanket TRO for the county but to work with user groups as they currently are.

Next was Polly Bolton, a local resident, who has a byway going, thought her property which has a traffic restriction order placed on it. Mrs Bolton presented a pictorial show via the digital projector showing many lanes in a very poor state. She proceeded to talk about the problems with usage on the ROW and the damage that happens. All the usual unfounded comments about pollution/noise/historical damage so on. The only flaw was that Mrs Bolton used a lot pictures of the ROW`s that have been repaired in the last two years or have permanent TRO placed on them so that they no longer present a problem. The good luck we had there was to point this out and also I think SCC mentioned this as well later. But Mrs Bolton was not that anti in her comments as she did not recommend a total TRO but a TRO on all none metalled ones, basically grassed lanes. She did state some good constructive views to the committee of which was totally absorbed by all.

Then it was my turn, my stomach sank as my name was mentioned and my heart when into over time. Good job I don’t have a heart condition. I said earlier I did not use the projector to give a presentation but a printed one handed out earlier. Showing all what we have done over the last two years in the county and also all what we have achieved in the Brecon Beacons National Park (BBNP) complete with press releases from the BBNP. The reason I used the BBNP for this purpose is that it is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) just like Shropshire. I talked about what we have done and what is on the cards for the future in the areas. I mentioned we can not do any thing about the past but we can make a difference in the future. Plus the fact that recommending a total ban on motorised use in the county would not cure the illegal use but may even increase it. All it would do is punish the responsible users who do care, this is the reason why we put in so much time and energy.

Anyway time was up and we all had a good chat/debate on what was going on. To my surprise we were pleasantly complemented for our efforts so far from quite a few members. There were obviously cynical comments but overall an unexpected positive response.

So the outcome of the meet!

Basically they have decided to go with the council’s recommendation, to not TRO the county but to work with CRAG and all users in the future. It was by far not an overwhelming agreement but a begrudging yes as they still don’t approve of what we do, but are prepared to accept us for now. I basically almost fell of my chair as I never expected anywhere near that type of response and once again this is another milestone achievement in itself.

However it is now up to all us users to respect what we have been given and prove to the sceptics what can be done by working together instead of standing in each corner throwing stones at each other. We may never change the view of the hard core antis but we have changed the view of some.

I would like to thank the Shropshire CC & the ANOB committee including the scrutinising committee for giving us this chance. Let’s not let them down, it up to us now as responsible users.

Yours

Ray Dadd

CRAG Vice-Chairman

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