POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: England’s new beauty spots, plus more positive news
England was promised four new areas of outstanding natural beauty, Wales shelved plans to build more roads, and Guinea stamped out Ebola, plus the week’s other positive news
England was promised four new beauty spots
The first new areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) for a quarter of a century are to be created in England, it was announced on Thursday. The move follows a commitment by the UK government to protect 30 per cent of its land by 2030.
The Yorkshire Wolds and Cheshire Sandstone Ridge (pictured) were put forward to be recognised as protected areas, alongside extensions to the Surrey Hills and Chilterns AONBs.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland have 46 AONBs, which encompass some of the most celebrated scenery in the UK. AONBs enjoy similar protections to national parks, but some environmentalists claim the designation doesn’t go far enough in protecting nature.
Tony Juniper, chairman of Natural England, described the announcement as an “ambitious step forward”. Critics said the plans were not progressive enough and called for more land to be protected.
Guinea’s Ebola outbreak was declared over
The Ebola outbreak that emerged in Guinea in mid-February was declared over this week. It claimed 12 lives. While each death is a tragedy, the toll highlights the progress that has been made tackling the virus in West Africa (more than 11,000 people died during the 2013-16 epidemic).
After infections were first detected, health authorities mounted a swift response, vaccinating the most at-risk groups with support from the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Thanks to new innovations and lessons learned, Guinea managed to contain the virus in four months,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “We are getting faster, better and smarter at fighting Ebola. But while this outbreak is over, we must stay alert for a possible resurgence and ensure the expertise in Ebola expands to other health threats such as Covid-19.”
Wales shelved plans to build new roads
Plans to build new roads in Wales were shelved this week, pending a review by the Welsh government to assess whether proposed highways are compatible with climate targets.
Wales has committed to being a net-zero nation by 2050. The government argues that ripping up the countryside to build new roads undermines that target, and this week announced a review. Projects where shovels are already in the ground will be allowed to go ahead.
Haf Elgar, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said: “The Welsh government is right to put a freeze on new road building projects. A transformation of the nation’s walking and cycling infrastructure is urgently needed, as well as vastly improved and affordable public transport.”
The UK announced a ban on junk food ads
Daytime junk food ads will be banned in the UK from 2022, it was announced this week. The news was welcomed by obesity campaigners and many parents.
Under the rules, TV commercials for unhealthy foodstuffs – including sweets, chocolate, sugary drinks, cereals, biscuits, pizza, chips and burgers – will be outlawed between 5.30am and 9pm.
The rules will not affect companies with fewer than 250 employees, nor will they apply to foods that are naturally sweet or fatty, such as honey, avocados or olive oil.
Pressure has been mounting on the government to address soaring levels of obesity in the UK. According to the NHS, more than 60 per cent of the adult population is overweight or obese.
Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “These plans are a bold and very positive step forward in protecting children from being inundated with junk food advertising.”
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