National Parks cannot stay still. Let’s give them a brighter future.

21 December 2018

This week saw Campaign for National Parks submit evidence to the Glover review of England’s designated landscapes. Our campaigns and communication officer, Andrew Hall, takes a look at the evidence we submitted #21stCenturyNationalParks

It is an extraordinary time for England and Wales’ National Parks. The threats they face are persistent and diverse. Climate change and development pressures are compounding the damage we see to the environment and beauty of these special landscapes. And fulfilling the purposes of the National Parks continues to be a struggle for all those with a stake in these incredibly important spaces.

Campaign for National Parks has welcomed the review as a once in a lifetime opportunity to consider and seek to address these daunting challenges. In our evidence, we have highlighted a number of areas where we believe urgent change is needed.

Horse riding in the beautiful CheviotsWe want everyone to experience the beauty of the National Parks. Horse riding in the cheviots. Photo credit: Northumberland National Park Authority.

Like many organisations we have been concerned about the state of nature in our National Parks. Nearly 75% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in the English National Parks are in an ‘unfavourable condition’. This compares to 61.3% of the total SSSIs in England. Our report, Raising the bar: improving nature in National Parks, considered what was preventing wildlife from thriving in the Parks and made a number of detailed recommendations. Among them was the urgent need for more ambitious landscape-scale conservation approaches that focus on restoring ecological processes at that scale.

National Park Authorities have a key role to play here. In our evidence we argue that responsibility for targeting and delivering future environmental land management schemes should be given to them. This is because we recognise that enabling sustainable land management is essential if we are to enhance the National Parks for wildlife and visitors alike.

A rare peregrine falcon in the Yorkshire Dales

A rare peregrine falcon at Malham in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Photo credit: Dave Dimmock. 

Despite their protected status, the Parks face many pressures for inappropriate development in the National Parks. Road building, quarrying and fracking threatens rare habitats, the beauty of our landscapes and the very principles behind National Park designation.

Those pressures are many and varied. We started 2018 successfully campaigning against inappropriate zip wires over the Thirlmere reservoir in the Lake District. Over summer we provided evidence to the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee against the development of geological waste disposal facilities in the National Parks but were aghast at the disregard of important protections by the committee and some Government departments. This year we’ve also seen a major road threaten acres of ancient woodlands in the South Downs and many more cases of development completely inappropriate to the National Parks.  

Evidently the current system isn’t working and protections are unacceptably weak. That is why we are calling for a stronger section 62 duty so that all public bodies must have a duty to further National Park purposes. Given the importance of National Parks to the country, this enhanced duty would sharpen the minds of public bodies and force them to lend a greater weight to the success of England’s National Parks.

Staithes in the North York Moors

The beautiful Staithes in the North York Moors. Photo credit: Steve Iceton, originally submitted as part of our hidden treasures photo competition. 

Fulfilling the purposes of National Parks is already a hard job. The Parks were created for everyone to enjoy and in this way the Parks deliver loads of brilliant benefits to society. The beauty of the Lake District has inspired the genius of William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. There are extraordinary historical sites including the iconic mills of the Broads and the incredible Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. All the National Parks offer the most exciting and daring adventures. While walks in the peaceful moors of Dartmoor or the beautiful countryside of the South Downs offer a much needed respite from our busy and stressful lives.

But these benefits are not available to everyone. More has to be done to open up the Parks for everyone to enjoy sustainably. We urge the review panel to consider the findings of our report, National Parks for all: making car-free travel easier. Getting to and around the Parks without a car is largely a difficult task. So in our evidence we are calling for further support for sustainable travel allowing people to visit the Parks without undermining them.

 How can we engage more people with nature?

How can we engage more people in our National Parks? 

Part of the difficulty in National Parks policy is always the diverse number of stakeholders to consider. Unlike their American counterparts our National Parks are living, working landscapes, largely areas of managed countryside. Farmed and with multiple land-owners/managers. 95% of the Yorkshire Dales is privately owned, for example. Therefore the review must carefully consider how proposals fit together on the ground. Campaign for National Parks (unlike some) is a great advocate of bringing as many people around the table as possible. We know this is the only way to succeed in National Parks.

Addressing these challenges won’t be easy but there is a need for urgent change and we should take heart in the review’s and Defra’s apparent willingness to listen to imaginative and big solutions to these big challenges. As an organisation, Campaign for National Parks was founded to lead the establishment of National Parks for the benefit of the nation. Over 80 years on we believe that National Parks cannot stay still and that the changes we are recommending to the Glover review can go some way to giving these special landscapes a bright future. 

Oh and merry christmas!

By Andrew Hall, 

Campaign for National Parks