District council leaders say they remain committed to a campaign to declare the Forest of Dean an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The nationally renowned Forest has never been formally recognised through designation as a protected landscape.

But Forest of Dean District Council leaders say they are working towards that goal which would protect land in the area and help with efforts to conserve and enhance its natural beauty.

Councillors made the remarks as they approved a new management plan for the Wye Valley AONB.

The Forest of Dean was recommended for national protection in the reports to government after the Second World War and some 232 square miles of the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley were identified as meriting protection.

However, while the Wye Valley was designated an AONB in 1971, the Forest of Dean was left out.

Experts viewed that the area formed a distinct landscape separate from the Wye

Valley and that designation was not necessary as the Forestry Commission had adequate powers for meeting amenity and recreation needs under the 1968 Countryside Act.

But this disregarded the landscape merits of the non-afforested parts of the Dean and the need to consider the area as a whole.

Environment cabinet member Sid Phelps told a recent district council meeting that achieving AONB status was still their intention. “Our council believes the Forest of Dean should be recognised as a national landscape through the designation, such of an AONB,” he said.

“While the management plan is for the existing Wye Valley AONB it does recognise the Forest of Dean District Council’s wider ambition of being designated an AONB.”

He said the new management plan for the Wye Valley AONB aims to preserve and enhance the area by finding local solutions to local challenges.

“The management plan provides guidance to the local community and many landowners and visitors in the area.

“The management plan is for all bodies and individuals whose actions affect the AONB and who can play an important part in helping to conserve and enhance the outstanding landscape of the lower Wye valley for the benefit of current and future generations.”

Deputy council leader Chris McFarling, who seconded the proposals, said he was encouraged by the Wye Valley AONB’s approach to tackling climate change: “They have developed a charter for residents and visitors and the second point in that is to ask us to not delay in addressing climate change. They ask that we make climate change a factor in the decisions around what we eat, how we travel and what we buy and use. This management plan is particularly comprehensive and demanding because of the challenge we face geographically but also from the climate and the pandemic.”