Natural Wonders

Rural groups slam new plans to ‘safeguard’ national parks

New government plans looking to ‘safeguard’ national parks have been criticised by rural campaigners as being a ‘missed opportunity’ to level up the countryside.

The proposals, which will be subject to a 12-week consultation, were set out in the government’s response to Julian Glover’s independent Landscapes Review.

This looked at whether the protections for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are still fit for purpose.

The government’s response sets out changes to increase access to nature and ensure protected landscapes can “deliver more for climate, nature, people and places for the next 70 years and beyond”.

As part of its proposals, a new national landscapes partnership will be created to bring together those responsible for managing England’s National Parks and AONBs.

The partnership will spearhead collaboration to help rural stakeholders tackle common objectives such as nature recovery and improved public access.

Others proposals set out look at improving public access to protected landscapes, as well as measures to help drive nature recovery and nature-based solutions to tackle climate change.

But the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) warned that the proposals were a ‘missed opportunity’ for the countryside, highlighting how young people were leaving these areas due to “a lack of opportunity, taking their talents with them”.

CLA President Mark Tufnell said: “By viewing the countryside purely through an environmental lens, government is missing out on significant economic and social opportunity – which flies in the face of its supposed Levelling Up agenda.

“Put simply, the countryside is not a museum and Whitehall should stop treating it as such.”

Instead, Mr Tufnell said the government should show ‘some ambition’ for the countryside, including supporting businesses in designated areas.

“Allow us to protect its inherent beauty, but help us to create jobs, share prosperity and strengthen communities at the same time,” he added.

Announcing the proposals on Saturday (15 January), Defra Secretary George Eustice said, however, that the reforms would help the UK ‘build back greener’.

“Our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are amongst our nation’s greatest and most cherished natural wonders,” he said.

“The comprehensive set of measures set out today represents a new chapter in the story of our protected landscapes and we have worked closely with stakeholders to carefully form our response.

“These reforms will play a pivotal role in meeting our international commitment to protect 30% of land for biodiversity by 2030 as we build back greener.”

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