Speaking in North Berwick, Lord Lindsay said: 'To meet diverse circumstances, a large number of designations have evolved, many of which carry differing implications for the owners or occupiers of the land. We recognise that this proliferation in the number and types of designation could lead to confusion.
'In December last year, in the rural white paper people, prosperity and partnership, we therefore announced our intention to review these designations to explore the scope for simplifying and rationalising them, but without undermining our natural heritage objectives.
'This discussion paper attempts to explain the purpose and assess the effectiveness of individual designations, and to describe the current system of designations as a whole.
'The Government recognises the need for a layman's guide which describes the role of each designation within the overall system. We aim to publish this by next summer.
'We are also committed to producing a national planning policy guideline on natural heritage and planning, and advice on best planning practice.
'In particular, we intend to issue advice on good practice in relation to local designations, which should be available by next autumn.'