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Gove launches review of national parks

Words: Laura Edgar
South Downs National Park

Environment secretary Michael Gove has launched a review of national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) sites, which will be conducted by writer Julian Glover.

The review was first announced in January, when the government published its 25-year environment plan. It said the review would consider coverage of designations, how designated areas deliver their responsibilities, and whether there is scope for expansion.

Sir Arthur Hobhouse’s report in 1947 bought about the creation of England’s network of designated landscapes, with the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act passed in 1949. There are 10 national parks in England and 34 AONBs.

Glover will lead a panel that is set to look at how national parks and AONBs meet the public’s needs in the 21st century. They will investigate how access to these landscapes a can be improved; how those who live and work there can be better supported; and their role in growing the rural economy.

The review will also focus on how designated areas can boost wildlife, support the recovery of natural habitats and connect more people with nature.

Gove said: “The creation of national parks almost 70 years ago changed the way we view our precious landscapes – helping us all access and enjoy our natural world.

“Amid a growing population, changes in technology, and a decline in certain habitats, the time is right for us to look afresh at these landscapes. We want to make sure they are not only conserved, but enhanced for the next generation.”

Glover said the system that created national parks and AONBs has been a “strength” but it “faces challenges too”.

“I can’t wait to get started and learn from everyone who shares an interest in making England’s landscapes beautiful, diverse and successful.”

Margaret Paren, chair of National Parks England, welcomed the review and said the organisation will play a full part.

“Our National Parks offer so much to the country, and as we approach the 70th anniversary of the founding legislation we look forward to a future where their beauty is enhanced; they are loved and accessible for everyone; and they continue to support thriving communities in these working landscapes.”

Philip Hygate, chair of the National Association of AONBs, said the requirement for “beautiful, inspiring places in which to live, work, and relax is probably greater now than ever before”. he said the associations will work with the panel to make sure all of “England’s special landscapes are equally recognised for the value they provide to the nation, and their fundamental importance to future generations”.

The Terms of Reference for the review can be found on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website.

Read more:

Government to strengthen environmental protections in the NPPF

News report: The government's environment plan: what you need to know

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