§ Mr. Gordon Prentice
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the additional costs to local authorities of having Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty within their boundaries; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Meale
No central assessment of additional costs has been made. However, a study undertaken last year for the Countryside Commission, the Government's statutory advisors on landscape protection, suggested that some £4.8m may be spent annually by local authorities in England on the core costs of the management and protection of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). The same study suggested that a further £9.5m may be spent annually on local authority countryside management services within AONBs.
The Countryside Commission has provided advice to the Government on various aspects of the care of protected landscapes. We are considering the recommendations very carefully, together with all the other information available, before taking any final decisions. There are some complex issues involved but we hope to be able to announce some conclusions soon.288W
We have already announced an additional £2.5m for the new Countryside Agency to spend in AONBs and similar landscape areas in 1999–2000.