What would a good 25 Year Environment Plan for National Parks look like?

10 January 2018

With the release of the Westminster Government’s long awaited 25 Year Plan tomorrow, Campaign for National Parks’ Andrew Hall sets out his hopes for the Plan.

For National Parks there are serious challenges on the horizon that need to be tackled. To list just a few: the future of payments for farmers, rates of reforesting, upland land management, affordable housing, managing the coastlines and seascapes, safeguarding our historic environment, the decline in species diversity and the threat of climate change. These issues are intimidating, complex and dynamic. Ultimately they affect the character of our landscapes and therefore the very soul of our National Parks.

Will the 25 Year Environment Plan look after our National Parks? Tree stump in Exmoor National Park.


Any successful 25 Environment Year Plan, in the interests of our designated landscapes, would….

  • Answer some of those big horrible questions. How do we want farmers to make a living? What change do we want to see in our protected spaces? What access do we want to spaces of beauty? And do we want more National Parks (in which case where?)? While we might have to wait for the course of Brexit to play out for some of these, answering these tricky questions with ambitious aims and achievable targets would be a good place to start for the 25 Year Plan.
  • Guarantee strong protections for nature after leaving the EU. There remains significant uncertainties about future environmental legislation in the UK after Brexit. However, as we recommended in a report with CPRE and National Trust, we want protections that empower National Park Authorities to say no to inappropriate development, and conserve habitats and species.

  • Understand that landscape is more than the sum of its parts. Our National Parks are known worldwide for their beauty but this is a result of centuries of agriculture, the people living and working in the landscape, the wild spaces and the wildlife that call them home. The way these, and other factors, link and come together boosts the overall natural capital of these special places. A good 25 year plan for National Parks would recognise these links and demonstrate joined-up thinking to deliver the best for National Parks.

Following this guidance, a good 25 Year Plan will, therefore, deliver National Parks that are more beautiful than before, more accessible and better protected.


More beautiful

To get more specific. I hope the plan puts more flesh to the bones of Michael Gove’s announced intentions to incentivise environment enhancement through farm payments. Campaign for National Parks is clear that the replacement for Common Agricultural Policy, needs to provide farmers with the opportunity to make a living while contributing to the biodiversity and resilience of National Park landscapes.

Furthermore, a good Plan would recognise the vast potential of National Parks, as specially designated spaces, to reverse the declining trends of the country’s biodiversity. 2016’s State of Nature report stated that 56% of species in the UK are in decline, many of these might only be found in National Parks. A good Plan, therefore, is one with ambitious targets for biodiversity, including species groups at serious risk. Given recent announcements to reintroduce beavers into the Forest of Dean and large scale reforestation in the North of England, we are hoping for specific action that takes into the account the status and character of our protected landscapes.

More accessible

Managing access has always been an important issue for National Parks, and as the links between exposure to green space, health and wellbeing become clearer, getting different communities enjoying the National Parks is more important than ever. A good 25 Year Plan would recognise this and include specific aims to get more diverse groups in National Parks, including BAME and lower socio-economic groups.

However recreation and access must not undermine other National Park purposes; infrastructure that supports access to National Parks should be sympathetic to the beauty of the landscape. To this end, the plan should make sustainable transport a priority for the environment. This would require significant inter-departmental thinking but it would mean a stronger rural transport network, a stronger rural economy and a more resilient environment.

 Better protected

I hope the 25 Year Plan really does guarantee the future of nature by committing the Westminster Government to its protection. Coming out of the EU puts crucial regulation at risk but the 25 Year Plan offers an opportunity to maintain and even strengthen these regulations, allowing planning authorities to refuse damaging major developments and protect National Parks for future generations.

National Parks are currently facing serious threats including inappropriate zip wires in the Lake District and road developments in the South Downs and the Peak District, now there is a chance to protect National Parks for the next 25 years.


I hope the long wait for the 25 Year Environment Plan reflects intense listening to the many campaigners, charities and individuals who feel that the country is stronger with prosperous protected areas, and that this will be demonstrated in the detail of the Plan. Long awaited as it is, I hope that the publication of the Plan this year will signify a bright future for National Parks.


Andrew Hall is the Campaigns and Communications Officer for Campaign for National Parks. Campaign for National Parks is the only national charity dedicated to the protection and improvement of National Parks.

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