Draconian Government cuts threaten the fabric of our English National Parks

Cuts of up to 40% in real terms to National Park Authority Government funding in England have led to more than 225 job losses over the past five years and huge impacts on the services they are able to provide.

New information about the impacts of these cuts was published today (Fri) by the Campaign for National Parks. This was based on responses to Freedom of Information requests sent to all ten National Parks in England.

The cuts mean that National Park Authorities in England received £44.7m for 2015/6 compared with £56m in 2010/11. Based on an English population of 53.5m, National Parks cost the English taxpayer just 83.5p per year.

They have led to the closure of or reductions in public transport services – affecting people wanting to visit and explore our treasured landscapes. But they have also led to the closure of information centres, an end to much work to rights of way to keep footpaths open and a halt to many Authorities work on climate change, flood defence and conservation.

Project and programmes that have had to stop include:

Dartmoor National Park Authority has terminated its One Planet Dartmoor, the Sustainable Development Fund and its Action for Wildlife Initiative, which covered climate change, biodiversity and grants for local communities.

Northumberland National Park Authority has stopped its climate change and apprenticeship programmes; closed its sustainable business support and two of its three visitor centres.

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has ended its events, branding, geodiversity, climate change, education and public transport programmes and stopped its Definitive Map (Rights of Way) designations.

North York Moors National Park Authority has stopped its flood prevention work, work on Green Lanes, climate change mitigation and adaptation work and managing its Definitive Map.

The Broads Authority has closed three of its six tourist information centres and withdrawn from virtually all rights of way maintenance.

Although National Parks are legally required to set a balanced budget, there is deep concern that future reductions over the next five years to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ unprotected budget could mean further cuts might be on the way as part of the Budget on 8 July.

Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks chief executive, said the effects of the cuts meant most National Park Authorities had already had to make substantial cuts to the services they provide and that any future cuts would have a severe impact on local communities and the management of these national assets.

“Funding available for public transport programmes – that get people out into and around our Parks – have been cut; information centres are closing down or shortening their opening hours; public rights of way are not being maintained and grants for rural businesses – the lifeblood of the community – are being cut.

“National Park Authorities should be spending time promoting our National Parks as our most treasured jewels in the crown and not having to look over their shoulder and deal with damaging, piece-meal year on year cuts.

“We know the National Park Authorities are being proactive and trying to be creative about accessing new funding streams, but National Parks are nationally important assets. They need to be properly valued by the Government and supported financially to make sure they are able to continue to deliver important environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits to both local communities and the nation,” she added.

All the National Park Authorities have been working with their Welsh and Scottish counterparts to create a new company – National Parks Partnerships Ltd – devoted to identifying commercial opportunities following a similar successful initiative in the United States. This builds on sponsorship deals brokered with Airwick and US footwear company Merrell.

 

Notes to Editors

The Campaign for National Parks is the only national, voluntary sector organisation that campaigns to protect and promote the 13 National Parks of England and Wales. An umbrella of 30 environmental and amenity organisations, it works in partnership with National Park Authorities, when appropriate, the government’s statutory advisers on the countryside in England and Wales, National Park Societies, the Corporate Forum for National Parks and the Friends of the Campaign for National Parks

The information came through a detailed FOI request submitted to all ten England National Parks in April 2015.

Download the national briefing paper setting out the impact of these cuts here.

The Campaign for National Parks supports the 38 Degrees petition calling on David Cameron to stop the cuts to National Park Authorities. The petition can be accesses at https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/save-our-national-parks#petition

Further information can be obtained from our Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Manager Tony McDougal (Tel: 07766133788)