We need legislative change now if National Parks are to deliver more in future 

We've been calling for the Government to commit to a new Landscapes Bill to deliver on the ambition of the Landscapes Review, but this was sadly lacking from the 2022 Queen's Speech. Our Policy and Research Manager Ruth Bradshaw explains why legislative change is so crucial...

We know our National Parks could be delivering more for nature, people and climate than they already do.  

We know what needs to change to ensure that happens – the key changes are clearly set out in Julian Glover’s Landscapes Review which was published in 2019 and which the Government finally responded to earlier this year. 

We know the Government has committed to taking forward many of Glover’s key proposals, including ones on amended purposes, stronger duties on other bodies and more effective Management Plans.  

What we still don’t know is when the legislation needed to implement those changes will actually happen.   

Today’s Queen Speech would have been the perfect opportunity for the Government to commit to delivering this legislation and it is really disappointing that it included no mention at all of National Parks or Designated Landscapes.  A dedicated bill would also provide the perfect opportunity to introduce other important changes such as a complete ban on burning on peatland in designated landscapes and controls on second homes and to give National Park Authorities more influence over transport planning.  

The full set of changes needed include: 

  • Amending the purposes to give specific priority to nature recovery, climate action and equality and inclusion, and updating the Sandford Principle in line with the amended purposes, for all National Parks and AONBs. 
  • Requiring all public bodies to further these purposes, with a requirement on National Park Authorities to identify and notify these other public bodies when developing Management Plans, coupled with an effective escalation mechanism. 
  • Strengthening the Management Plans including by requiring the inclusion of targets. 
  • Strengthening accountability by requiring the Secretary of State to set national targets, with timescales in which they should be achieved; produce regular strategic guidance; and sign off Management Plans.  
  • Strengthening scrutiny by giving Natural England a new role, akin to that of the UK Committee on Climate Change, to review, advise and report to parliament and the public on the adequacy of polices and plans to meet Protected Landscape targets.  
  • Giving National Park Authorities much greater influence over transport planning and requiring all transport authorities to consider NPA requests for road charging schemes. 
  • A ban on all burning on peatland in National Parks and AONBs, irrespective of peat depth. 
  • A ban on the use of motor vehicles for recreational purposes on ‘Green Lanes’. 
  • Introducing controls on second homes and holiday lets including through the planning system, taxation and licensing.  
  • Making it easier and quicker to establish new National Parks. 

Together these changes will help ensure that in future National Parks make a far bigger contribution to nature recovery, access to the countryside, improved health and well-being and other important national goals and that the communities within these areas continue to thrive. But none of this will happen without the necessary legislation. And the need for such legislation is now increasingly urgent given the nature, climate and public health emergencies we face.  

Without legislation change we are unlikely to see the kind of transformational change that’s needed to deliver the vision and ambitions for National Parks set out in the Landscapes Review.  

If there isn’t going to be a dedicated Bill, it is absolutely essential that the necessary measures are delivered through other relevant legislation as quickly as possible. 

In particular, there is an opportunity for the Government to include the changes set out above in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that they have already committed to taking forward. This is something that we will be pushing hard for in the coming months. 

Join us to add your voice.