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National Parks review for the 21st century must take on urgent challenges

At the start of 2018, the Westminster Government published the long awaited 25 Year Environment Plan. Within its 151 pages, nestled snugly in the second chapter, is the promise of a 21st Century ‘Hobhouse’ Review of National Parks and AONBs in England.

May 2018

“[A review for the 21st century] will consider coverage of designations, how designated areas deliver their responsibilities, how designated areas are financed, and whether there is scope for expansion. It will also consider opportunities to enhance the environment in existing designations, and expand on the existing eight-point plan for National Parks to connect more people with the natural environment.” – 25 Year Environment Plan (2018), p 66

As many of us enjoy the National Parks ourselves over the bank holiday weekend, it's been announced that Julian Glover will lead this review.

We welcome Julian and, alongside our partners at Link, we hope we can work together closely to make sure the review recognises and addresses the challenges facing National Parks in the 21st century. Specifically, we hope the review will support the Parks to be better protected, more accessible and even more beautiful.

Let me explain.

In March Campaign for National Parks launched a new report, National Parks for all: making car free travel easier, highlighting the urgent need to improve sustainable ways of getting to and around the National Parks. The report found that too often, a lack of good public transport, expensive fares and a lack of strategic oversight is excluding some people from enjoying the most special landscapes in England and Wales. It also sets out our recommendations for improving car-free access.

This summer we will be publishing a new report looking at how to improve the diversity and abundance of wildlife within the National Parks. We are clear that as protected landscapes, National Parks must be home to thriving wildlife and healthy, functional habitats.

While we believe there are opportunities to enhance the Parks, the review absolutely cannot undermine the good work already going on in them. The National Park Authorities need to be well resourced to ensure that they are able to support vibrant communities, generate sustainable solutions to pressing environmental and social issues, and implement plans to enhance the beautiful areas of countryside under their responsibility

National Parks currently contribute millions of pounds to the rural and visitor economy and inspire artists, writers and conservationists. They provide a sense of wonder and connection with nature that is good for mental and physical health. They include vital habitats for our native wildlife and refuges for rare and imperilled species. They even provided the image for the front cover of the 25 Year Environment Plan itself!

So let’s not let this opportunity go to waste. Next year will mark 70 years since the original 1949 Act that led to the protection of beautiful swathes of countryside we love and enjoy as National Parks. What a perfect time to tackle the challenges facing National Parks.

I hope the review will build on the incredible environmental legacy of the original Hobhouse review by grappling with the biggest trials our National Parks are facing and sharing our vision for a greener, safer future for the most loved landscapes in the country.

Andy Hall, Campaigns and Communications Officer, Campaign for National Parks

Follow @Campaign4Parks

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.