Making sense of the 25 Year Environment Plan

19 January 2018

Campaign for National Parks’ Andrew Hall takes a look at the good, the not-so good and the unknowns contained within the Westminster Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

Campaign for National Parks has broadly welcomed the publication of the 25 Year Environment Plan. As many other environmental organisations note, however, the Plan lacks some serious detail especially in relation to implementation and so there remain some big unknowns for the National Parks. At 151 pages long, there’s a lot to cover but let’s take a look at some of the stand-out points for National Parks….

The good...

In the Plan, the explicit recognition for the importance of beauty in our landscapes is particularly pleasing, especially as it was reflected in the Prime Minister’s accompanying speech. The Plan also re-states that major development should only take place in designated landscapes in exceptional circumstances. These policies clearly align with our desire to protect the integrity of our beautiful landscapes.

There are also ambitions to halt the decline of biodiversity. The actions proposed are wide ranging, including: improving soil health, restoring habitats, a new environmental land management system and expanding woodland cover. I hope this will provide a real boost to wildlife in our National Parks which currently follow the unacceptable national trend of declining species richness.








Plans to increase woodland cover might mean more habitats for rare species. Bellever Forest, Dartmoor National Park. Photo credit: Dartmoor National Park Authority.


The quality and character of landscapes also get an explicit reference, in particular the Plan wants to find ways to improve the quality of landscapes without threatening their heritage. For National Parks this means environmental action should improve on the very reasons we love them!

It's also a laudable aim to double the number of young people who visit a National Park. We believe we can inspire whole new generations to love the natural world through experiencing the stunning landscapes of our National Parks. 

It is also worth noting that in her speech, Theresa May set out her strong commitment to maintaining and improving on EU environmental protections – something we have been calling for!


...the not so good...

There is a serious lack of detail. Many environmental organisations have criticised the 25 Year Environment Plan for a lack of implementation plan. The Plan is vast in its scope, so it inevitably glosses over some details but, even if we accept this, there is little in the Plan to indicate how the Government intends to prioritise the many proposals.

Campaign for National Parks wants to understand where the Government intends to go from here. For example, it is great we know the Government intends to replace current farming payments with a system that incentivises environment improvements but we need to know how work will be taken forward to develop thinking on this new system.

With the Plan unclear on how they will go about implementing proposals, we are still waiting to see what short, medium and long term actions will come about in National Parks to improve the biodiversity, access and protection of the Parks over the 25 years.

Like many other environmental groups, Campaign for National Parks is eager to see the warm words of the Prime Minister reflected in a legislative agenda – ensuring the intentions of the Plan are reflected in law.















Redshank in the Yorkshire Dales. Photo credit: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.


...the great unknowns

One of the biggest proposals for National Parks is a commitment to commission a review of designated landscapes including how they deliver their responsibilities, how they are financed and scope for expansion. Over the coming 25 years does this mean we will see new National Parks? Will National Park purposes, which Campaign for National Parks worked to establish, be changed or reinforced?

It is hard to know whether the review is good or bad news for National Parks and we await to see further detail. But we want it to be an opportunity to make sure the Parks are better protected from inappropriate development, become even more beautiful and are more accessible via sustainable and responsible means.


The 25 Year Environment Plan contains many more proposals with profound implications for the future of National Parks in England. Our job now is to ensure the Plan delivers real on-the-ground benefits to these special spaces. Campaign for National Parks will continue to work hard alongside our partners to ensure just that.

Support our fight today by donating to Campaign for National Parks.