Sheffield Hallam Research

This study was undertaken by Sheffield Hallam University for the Campaign for National Parks, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and the National Trust. Its objectives were to investigate the effectiveness of national and local planning policies in protecting national parks in England and Wales, particularly in relation to major development and identify the most effective ways of strengthening this protection. This report presents the main evidence and findings from this study.

Proposals for certain categories of major development in national parks (and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) in both England and Wales have been subject to a `Major Development Test` (MDT) since the national parks were first designated. The MDT is intended to provide a framework to enable major development proposals to be assessed so that the conservation of their landscape is given the greatest priority. The precise wording in the MDT has been amended over time in response to government planning policy changes and ministerial statements on its interpretation.

This study analysed local plan policies in the English and Welsh national parks, alongside interviews with National Park Authority (NPA) senior planning officers and comments from national park societies, local CPRE groups and National Trust planning advisers. The study also investigated the decision making process in around 70 major development planning applications across all the national parks and examined in more detail 15 case studies, selected to represent a range of developments inside and outside our national parks.