Major win for nature and communities in National Parks

  • Contributor information: CNP

13 September 2023

We’re celebrating at Campaign for National Parks today, as the Government has finally listened to our repeated calls to strengthen the legislative framework for England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

Responding to our long-running campaign for changes to ensure that these areas can do more to support nature recovery and access to nature, Government has announced that it will be introducing its own amendment to the Levelling Up Bill when it returns to the Commons next week. This important amendment will deliver more effective Management Plans and place stronger duties on other bodies to contribute to the delivery of these Plans.

This is welcome news after months of delays and disastrous announcements which have been chipping away at the protections for these precious areas. Management Plans play a vital role in setting out the targets and actions needed to ensure that Protected Landscapes (National Parks and AONBs) are contributing to key Government objectives including the commitment to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030 (30×30 target). But the Protected Landscape bodies are reliant on other key organisations such as local authorities, the water companies and Forestry England to deliver these Management Plans. To date, there has been no mechanism for requiring those other bodies to contribute but this new amendment should ensure that’s not the case in future.

While this is a massive step forward, we will be keeping a close eye on the details of what the Government proposes to ensure it really does deliver. We will also be continuing to call for the wider legislative reform that is needed if our Protected Landscapes are going to play their full role in accelerating nature’s recovery, delivering strong climate action, and ensuring more people have good access to nature.

In addition to duties relating to Management Plans, there needs to be a stronger duty on all relevant organisations to further the objectives of Protected Landscapes when making decisions which affect these areas. This would help prevent proposals for damaging development, such as major roadbuilding being put forward in these areas. We are also calling for the statutory purposes for these areas to be updated to place a greater emphasis on nature recovery and equality of access and for changes to ensure that Protected Landscapes have the governance, funding and powers they need to deliver those purposes effectively.

Today’s announcement also included Government commitments to:

  • Publish an Outcomes Framework setting out the contribution that our Protected Landscapes should make to national targets to guide local decision-making and prioritisation, ensuring these areas do more to contribute to nature and climate targets.
  • Establish a new Protected Landscape Partnership between key groups to deliver a range of projects and programmes on nature recovery and widening access to nature backed by over £2m of funding
  • Extend the Farming in Protected Landscape (FiPL) programme by a further year until March 2025 with £10m additional funding each year in recognition of the positive feedback and outcomes delivered.

These are all welcome developments, but they are not new commitments as all three were included in the Environmental Improvement Plan published in January, as was the Access for All programme which the Government also referred to in their statement. We want Government to go even further, for example scaling up and extending Farming in Protected Landscapes beyond 2025.

While there is still much that we need to campaign for, it’s great to finally be able to celebrate a positive step forward in our fight for stronger legislation for Protected Landscapes. You can help by supporting our Save National Parks for nature campaign and stay up to date with our latest news.