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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 May 2006, 06:10 GMT 07:10 UK
Gower national park status call
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Calls have been made for Gower, the UK's first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), to be given national park status to prevent over-development.

Members of the Gower Society made the plea as the peninsula celebrated the 50th anniversary of its status.

They say pressure is greater than ever for housing and tourism developments.

Gower became an AONB on 9 May 1956 in response to plans for a holiday camp. There are now 40 in Wales and England.

The Gower Society is a voluntary body with over 1,300 members from the UK and beyond.

One of its primary functions is to act as a watchdog on planning issues and spokesman Randolph Jenkins said the anniversary was a good time to assess the future.

"There's a lot of pressure on the area from people who want to come and live here and pressure for commercial development because there are so many visitors who come here," he said.

Three Cliffs Bay on Gower (photo by Sian Musgrave courtesy of the National Trust)
I think we should be thinking of more of a statutory framework like we have in the national parks
Randolph Jenkins, Gower Society

"I think we should be thinking of more of a statutory framework like we have in the national parks which control development far more closely.

"I don't think it (AONB status) has kept up to date with the pressure since its inception 50 years ago."

Around 10% of the land on the peninsula, including 26 miles of coastline, is owned by the National Trust.

The trust's director in Wales, Iwan Hughes, had some sympathy with Mr Jenkins.

He said: "Having AONB status means it's on a par with national parks in a planning point of view but obviously not as well resourced as park authorities.

"There is an issue there that we depend upon the goodwill of the local authority.

"I don't think the question of national park status is on the agenda but it deserves similar protection."

'Honed and refined'

Swansea Council is developing a new management plan for Gower, and last year it faced calls from some farmers and tourism operators to have planning restrictions eased.

Elfed Roberts of the authority's planning department said it had clear planning policies but these may be refined.

"The AONB was first established, I believe, as a response to pressure for a holiday camp," he explained.

"They successfully got the Gower designated as an AONB and the holiday camp never took place.

"Since then there has been a realisation that all sorts of other types of developments could impact - new housing and tourist sites and so on.

"I think there has been a gradual process where by an interpretation of what is acceptable on the AONB has been honed and refined.

"A new management plan is forthcoming in the immediate future.

He said he hoped the Swansea plan would reinforce policies about the AONB, including planning guidance on what good design on Gower means.


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