The site vision is a statement - from a positive, though realistic, perspective - of what the site will be like in the future, taking into account the evaluation of the site’s strengths and weaknesses. By stating an end point (or at least a way-point), the vision can be really helpful in establishing the management objectives. It can extend to include all aspects of the site, not only its nature conservation features.

Different timeframes are used by organisations for the vision:

  • A 25 year vision has the advantage of being relatively tangible, the end point of a few management plan cycles (how many depends on the length of the plan, of course), but it may not be a sufficient period to allow the recovery of natural processes if they are one of the objectives.
  • A 50 year vision will allow for more ambitious objectives to be realised, but some organisations find that it sets too wide a gap between the current plan and the future scenario, thereby becoming unrealistic and less helpful in forming management objectives. To get around this, a 50 year vision might help define objectives more readily if it is supplemented by shorter-term milestones, effectively saying that to reach point z in 50 years’ time, we aim to achieve x in 15 years and y in 30 years.

Favourable Conservation Status
For Natura 2000 sites (or sites that sit within a larger Natura 2000 area), a statement of how the site could contribute to achieving the favourable conservation status of its features is a necessity, and would logically form part of the vision statement.

Recent guidance on Article 17 reporting (a progress report required every six years) for Natura 2000 sites, states that for a plan to be considered to fulfil the requirements for the Habitats Directive, it should cover all parts of the Natura 2000 site.

For non-Natura 2000 sites (eg Ramsar sites), an equivalent description of what the destination should be for its nature conservation features undoubtedly forms part of the vision statement.

However, many protected areas have purposes that reach beyond the condition of habitats and species, such as management of geological or archaeological features, engaging with the public and undertaking environmental research. If the plan is intended to cover all aspect of the site, it’s logical that the vision should address these aspects too.

Links to additional information

Marsh orchids - Copyright Natural England Neil Pike
Marsh orchids - Copyright Natural England Neil Pike