National Park FAQs

What is a National Park?

National Parks are substantial tracts of land, sometimes remote, with wide open spaces large enough to provide the public with opportunities for outdoor recreation. National Parks are designated because of their landscape quaility, wildlife and their values as a recreational resource.

Why were the National Parks created?

The National Parks were created as part of the post World War II re-establishment process and aimed to bring long-term protection to areas of beautiful countryside that were highly valued for physical and spiritual refreshment.

What are the National Park purposes?

The statutory purposes of National Parks are:

  • To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Parks
  • To promote opportunities for the public understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Parks

In those cases where conflict exists between the two purposes and reconciliation proves impossible, the first purpose should take precedence. This is known as the Sandford Principle.

The Broads was designated under a special Act of Parliament and is a member of the National Park family. Its three statutory purposes are conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the Broads, promoting the enjoyment of the Broads by the public and protecting the interests of navigation.

Why is it important to protect National Parks?

National Parks are important and special areas covering 10% of the land area in England and Wales.  They protect vital landscapes and wildlife habitats, are important places where people live and work, and provide a focus for recreation and tourism for millions of visitors each year.  

There are 90 million visitors to National Parks and surrounding areas each year, spending more than £4bn, and 90% of people say National Parks are important to them.  These visitors experience the well documented physical and mental health benefits of being connected with nature.

Over 23% of land in National Parks in England is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and over 333,000 hectares is recognised and protected as being of international conservation importance.

The Parks play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change, and are essential carbon stores.  Peat soils in National Parks in England hold 119 megatones of carbon, that's the equivalent to England's entire COemissions for one year.

When were the National Parks created?

The first National Parks were created in 1951, the latest addition to the National Park family was the South Downs in 2010.

1951: The Lake District, Dartmoor, The Peak District, Snowdonia.
1952: The North York Moors, Pembrokeshire Coast
1954: Exmoor, The Yorkshire Dales
1955: Northumberland
1957: The Brecon Beacons
1989: The Broads (designated under its Act of Parliament)
2005: The New Forest
2010: South Downs

How are National Parks managed?

National Park Authorities (NPAs) are the bodies charged with the achievement of National Park purposes. They are members of the local government family as well as being independent, special purpose authorities established to act in the best interests of the National Parks and to encourage others to do the same. The NPAs and the Broads Authority are funded by Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government.

The National Park Authority is the local planning authority for the Park and is also the minerals planning authority.  National Park Authorities determine all planning applications submitted in their areas. Government policy is that major developments should not take place in National Parks, except in exceptional circumstances and where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.

Who owns the land in National Parks?

Although some land within the Parks is managed by the National Park Authority, National Park status does not automatically signify national ownership of the land as in other countries such as the USA. Within a National Park the majority of land is owned by farmers and other private landowners including conservation organisations such as the National Trust.