70th anniversary of National Parks is here! Protect them for a brighter future

16 December 2019

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 achieved Royal Assent exactly 70 years ago today [16 December 2019]. Campaign for National Parks, which led the original campaign, is calling for a renewal of the Parks for the 21st Century.

At last week’s general election every major party’s manifesto contained proposals for the National Parks. The manifesto of the incoming Conservative Party including welcoming a recent, extensive review of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the Glover review), a promise to look at making further designations and a promise to make the most loved landscapes better for all.

In September a government-commissioned review of National Parks recommended strengthening the protections for the National Parks taking on board Campaign for National Park’s recommendations to ensure public bodies do more to support the National Parks. Campaign for National Parks says at 70 years the time is right to reform the Parks for the 21st Century and calls for the new government to take decisive action by strengthening the protections for National Parks.

Exmoor by Shaun Davey

Campaign for National Parks, has been leading the fight to protect and enhance our most beloved countryside in England and Wales since the 1930s. 13 National Parks have been designated since the 1949 Act including some of our most famous landscapes such as the Lake District, Dartmoor and Snowdonia. 

The charity is now calling on the new Government to strengthen protections so the National Parks can deliver even more for nature and people:

  • We want all public bodies to be legally required to further the purposes of National Parks, ensuring that they take far more account of the need to protect and improve these areas in their decision-making.
  • In the past few years alone, Campaign for National Parks has fought against many inappropriate developments including potash mines, bypasses, fracking, zip wires, luges and more.
  • These include damaging proposals brought forward by public bodies such as Highways England. They are a long term threat to the vitality of National Parks.

The National Park charity argues that the Parks have so much to offer including better wildlife, fresh air, flooding mitigation, benefits to physical and mental wellbeing, but they must be better protected to ensure these benefits are available to future generations too. They can also play an important role in mitigating climate change through woodland expansion and the restoration of peatland.

Corinne Pluchino, Chief Executive of Campaign for National Parks speaks out: “National Parks are an incredible success story of post-war Britain. But most people don’t realise what a fight it has been to protect the most beautiful landscapes.”

“I, like millions of others, love our Parks for their world famous beauty and tranquillity but having so many applications for such inappropriate development risks eroding the very things that make our Parks so special and will deny future generations the chance to experience their glory.”

National Parks….

  • receive nearly 100 million visitors annually, generating  an estimated £3 billion of spend within local communities in the English Parks alone.
  • are important for heritage. They collectively contain over 5000 scheduled monuments. Dartmoor alone contains over 1000 scheduled monument sites.
  • are important for wildlife. 56% of the New Forest National Park is designated of international value for nature conservation. They contain some of Britain’s most special species such as curlew, red squirrels and butterflies.
  • are important to health. There is growing evidence that time spent in nature has benefits to physical and mental health.
  • have inspired some of the most famous artists and writers including Turner, Wordsworth and Potter.

Throughout 2019 Campaign for National Parks has been leading celebrations of the 70th anniversary including a history project interviewing some of those original pioneers of the National Parks movement and those who knew them. The National Parks have an incredible history. The movement sprang from multiple concerns that the beautiful countryside was being lost and that everyone deserved access to the recreational opportunities offered by the National Parks. The 1949 Act was part of an optimistic vision for Britain post-World War Two. Campaign for National Parks has produced a special film featuring the voices featuring Caroline Quentin, star of stage and screen. Click here to view this special short film.  

Speaking during the passage of  the Bill in 1949, then Minister of Town and Country Planning Lewis Silkin MP called the Act a “People’s Charter”, saying: “This is not just a Bill.  It is a people’s charter—a people’s charter for the open air, for the hikers and the ramblers, for everyone who lives to get out into the open air and enjoy the countryside.”*

Just last year, the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan recognised National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty as “among the outstanding environmental achievements of the past 100 years.”**

Today the National Parks are vitally important to our health and wellbeing, to our economy and to our wildlife. Campaign for National Parks takes forward the original spirit of those pioneers in our work today, campaigning to improve wildlife, access and protections for the National Parks.