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National park funding reinstated as Welsh park and AONB priorities clarified

Words: Roger Milne
Snowdonia National Park / iStock-510327724

The Welsh Government has reversed its decision to cut the budgets of the country’s three national parks and announced a set of priorities for the parks and the organisations that manage the five Welsh Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

Environment minister Hannah Blythyn said: “I want to provide security of resources for the designated landscapes during these uncertain times. In order to deliver on these priorities, I am reinstating the national park authorities’ budgets to last year’s (2017/18) level, which means an additional £1.5 million over two years.”

She also stressed that earlier this year over £3.4 million in additional funding for the AONBs and national parks was announced. It is intended to support a wide range of projects, such as improving access to the outdoors, promoting conservation and regenerating some of their most fragile areas.

The priorities for the designated landscape areas include a refreshed woodland strategy; halting the loss of biodiversity; ensuring a greater focus on green energy and decarbonisation; realising the economic potential of landscape; and boosting tourism and outdoor recreation.

Emyr Williams, chief executive of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, said: “As an authority, we welcome the government’s statement of priorities. We haven’t yet had the opportunity to discuss with the Welsh Government how the priorities will be achieved or how the partnerships required will be formed.

“The statement includes some exciting ambitions, including the management of natural resources and developments in health and well-being – areas that we have already identified for future development.  

“We haven’t yet received details of the financial settlement, however, the news that cuts will be curtailed is positive news. Cuts will continue to impact national park authorities due to the pressures of inflation, however, the effect on Snowdonia National Park Authority services won’t be clear until further discussions with the government have taken place.”

A spokesperson for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority said: “We are pleased that the government has decided to reverse the previous decision to reduce the core budget of national park authorities. This decision will mean that we will be able to continue to provide a wide range of services to both conserve the national park and to enable people from all backgrounds to experience and enjoy the park.”

The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority welcomed the government’s statement of priorities but has yet to discuss the details relating to how these priorities can be achieved.

A spokesman told The Planner: “The statement affirms much of what we are doing already but also includes some exciting ambitions, such as doing more to ensure the sustainable management of natural resources, preventing further declines in biodiversity, ensuring as many people as possible benefit from and value our landscapes, and ensuring our local communities are resilient.

“We look forward to further details of the financial settlements which have been agreed and the news that our settlements for the next two years are being restored to 2017/18 levels is positive.  We will still need to manage inflationary pressures on our budgets, but the two-year settlement announced will allow us to allocate some of our resources more strategically.”

Image credit | iStock