Dartmoor hosts National Park Society Conference

Lord Gardiner, Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, sent an uplifting message to a packed conference on Dartmoor, which considered the future challenges and opportunities for the National Parks of England and Wales.

Lord Gardiner said: “National Parks play a vital role in both conserving our beautiful countryside and enabling communities, people and businesses to prosper and grow.  

“The continuing beauty of these landscapes is testament to the National Parks’ vision for places to be enjoyed by all, protected, and to serve as productive areas of business.”

This year’s conference, What Value our National Parks? was hosted by the Dartmoor Preservation Association(1) on behalf of all the National Park Societies in England and Wales.  It was held at the Two Bridges Hotel in the heart of the Dartmoor National Park.

Norman Cowling and Janette Ward

Chair of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, Norman Cowling and chair of Campaign for National parks, Janette Ward at conference. Norman is giving Janette the symbolic thumbstick which passes from one conference organiser to the next.  Next year’s event will be organised by the Campaign for National Parks to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 which established the National Parks.

About 100 delegates debated sustainable tourism, natural and cultural capital and farming and conservation, with speakers from organisations such as the Dartmoor National Park Authority, Duchy of Cornwall, Historic England, the RSPB, the Friends of the Lake District, and Exeter and Gloucestershire Universities.

Janette Ward, chair of the Campaign for National Parks(2), the national voluntary organisation which champions the National Parks, commented:

“The conference met at a crucial time for our National Parks.  The Agriculture Bill which will influence the future of our countryside is being debated, and the Designated Landscapes Review, led by Julian Glover, will shortly call for evidence.

“This was a valuable opportunity to consider our priorities for the future of the Parks, and what we believe should be priorities for the Review to address. We shall argue, among other things for:

  • The urgent need for greater protections for our treasured National Parks;
  • Properly resourced new environmental land management schemes that support farmers and land managers to enhance the Parks and provide multiple public benefits; and
  • The need to build on the ethos of the National Parks movement from the 1930s and 40s and better articulate the importance of these areas for current and future generations. This in turn will help make the case for proper long-term planning for our National Parks, including sufficient, multi-year funding agreements for the National Park Authorities.

“We are grateful to the Dartmoor Preservation Association for organising such a thought-provoking conference, enabling us to have an excellent debate.”

Norman Cowling, chair of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, concluded:

“Many people think of our National Parks as part of our birthright, but we owe their existence to visionary people in the last century who campaigned and eventually persuaded Government to set them up nearly 70 years ago. They have been an outstanding success, contributing to our sense of national identity, to our culture and to our mental and physical well being.

“We support the thrust of the Government's clear directions for the environment, farming and conservation as we leave the orbit of the EU, but we will be vigilant to see that the National Parks are not only maintained and protected, but enhanced so that they are handed down to future generations in an even better condition.”