Severe funding cuts threaten the future of our National Parks

Campaign for National Parks have written to the Chancellor ahead of this week’s Autumn Statement, warning of the severe consequences that continued funding cuts will have for the future of National Parks.

With government funding for Nationals Parks having fallen by 40% in real terms over the last decade, National Park Authorities in England and Wales are facing further combined cuts of £16 million over the next three years. This will have a devastating impact on frontline services and bring National Parks to their knees.

A properly funded National Park network can do so much for driving sustainable economic growth, tackling the climate and nature emergency, and enhancing people’s health and wellbeing. That’s why we’re calling on the government to urgently provide National Parks with the investment and powers they need to thrive for the future.

Read our letter to the Chancellor

Dear Chancellor,

I am writing on behalf of Campaign for National Parks, the only independent charity dedicated to securing the future of National Parks in England and Wales. We urge you as Chancellor to show your support for National Parks in the upcoming Autumn Statement and provide the investment needed to help tackle the climate and nature emergency and drive sustainable growth.

We welcome your ongoing campaign as the Member of Parliament for South West Surrey to have the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designated as a National Park. It is clear from these efforts that you recognise just how important these Protected Landscapes are to our nation’s identity and economy. Our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty represent the most iconic and most beautiful parts of England and Wales. That they have been stewarded for over 70 years is one of the biggest successes in public policy, and a vital inheritance to pass to future generations, but they now face the biggest crisis in their history. 

Government funding for National Parks has fallen by 40% in real terms over the last decade, forcing National Park Authorities to carefully allocate shrinking resources and trim back on services. But this balancing act cannot continue much longer. With rising costs and inflation, even within the current budget settlement made earlier this year, the 10 National Park Authorities in England will be pushed to the brink, anticipating total cuts of £16m. This will bring many Authorities to their knees, forcing them to withdraw frontline services and having a severe and long-lasting impact on National Parks, the local communities that rely on them and the UK as a whole.

The argument for a properly funded National Park network is clear and robust. Protected Landscapes are national economic assets and internationally renowned destinations. They contribute billions of pounds to regional economies, supporting businesses, creating thousands of private sector jobs, in turn spurring wider economic growth. As an example, there were 100 million visitors last year to England’s 10 National Parks alone, spending more than £5.5 billion. 

Furthermore, the government has committed to meeting international targets on biodiversity, safeguarding 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. Covering nearly 30% of land combined in England and Wales, achieving these targets is simply not possible without equipping National Parks with greater funding and new powers. It is also vital that Protected Landscapes and other environmentally protected areas are not damaged as a result of any relaxation of planning regulations, including in investment zones. To avoid this happening, the government needs to send out a clear message that the additional protections afforded these areas will continue to apply whether or not they are in an investment zone. 

Lastly the Covid 19 pandemic has highlighted how much access to high-quality natural environments like National Parks matters to the nation’s health and wellbeing. The health benefits and savings associated with outdoor recreation within the UK are valued at over £6 billion. National Parks are at the forefront of this and functioning National Park Authorities are a critical part of our Natural Health Service, enabling people of all backgrounds to reap the physical and mental health benefits.

National Parks can play a vital role for sustainable growth and recovery in the UK if properly supported at the upcoming Autumn Statement. We look forward to working with you to ensure National Parks and other Protected Landscapes, including the Surrey Hills, receive the long-term investment that will allow them to do more for nature, climate, and people.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Rose O’Neill, Chief Executive
Campaign for National Parks

How you can stand up for National Parks

Now is the time to stand up for the long-term future of National Parks – and we want your support!

Campaign for National Parks is campaigning greater funding and powers that protect what we have and accelerate nature recovery. It is crucial that we do both: in a climate and nature emergency, we cannot afford to standstill or to go backwards. The stakes are too high.

Find out more about this work here.