A review of the way in which green spaces are managed could see more affordable housing built in rural areas and the introduction of a new financial model for national parks.
The review, which was led by the writer Julian Glover, has called for ‘bold action’ to reignite the founding spirit of the national park movement in order to make them greener, more beautiful and open to everyone.
Published at the weekend, 70 years after the Act of Parliament that created the first national parks, the review warns that climate change, biodiversity loss, and a changing, urban society mean that new approaches are needed to get the most out of national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).
It recommends the establishment of a new National Landscapes Service to act as a unified body for England’s 44 national landscapes, including 10 national parks and 34 AONBs.
It also recommends the creation of a 1,000 strong ranger service to be the ‘friendly face’ of national parks and the granting to every school pupil the opportunity to spend a night ‘under the stars’ in these protected landscapes.
A new National Landscapes Housing Association to build affordable homes was also proposed in the report, which also called for a more ‘enterprising’ financial model to be introduced to how green spaces are run.
‘From the high fells of the Lake District to the wildness of Exmoor, England’s most beautiful places define our country,’ said Mr Glover.
‘Today we are setting out a big, bold plan to bring them alive to tackle the crisis in our natural environment and make sure they are there for everyone to enjoy.
‘If we take action, we can make our country healthier, happier, greener, more beautiful and part of all our lives. Seventy years ago this year we created our national parks for a nation that had just won the Second World War. Now it’s time to reignite that mission.’
Welcoming the findings, environment secretary Theresa Villiers said: ‘These landscapes are the jewels in the crown of our countryside and are a cornerstone of our rural economy.
‘We are committed to ensuring they flourish as havens for nature and sites that everyone in the country goes to visit for inspiration, adventure or relaxation.
‘That’s why we asked Julian and his panel to conduct this review and I am very grateful to them for their efforts. I welcome and agree with the spirit of ambition, which is in line with our 25 Year Environment Plan, and we will now carefully consider the recommendations set out in the review.’
Corinne Pluchino, chief executive of Campaign for National Parks welcomed what she described as a ‘timely publication’.
‘There is an pressing need to address the urgent challenges in our national parks. We will be reviewing the report in detail and will be working to ensure the momentum is maintained.’
The countryside charity CPRE also welcomed Mr Glover’s report, although their chief executive Crispin Truman struck a note of caution.
‘The report makes many recommendations that chime with CPRE’s hopes,’ he said.
‘We do have concerns, however, that adding an economic purpose to national parks and AONBs may inadvertently put these landscapes at risk of inappropriate development being pushed through.
‘But we recognise that the aim is to foster the economic and community vitality of these areas and we are keen to see the right, sustainable development in the right place in rural areas like these, such as truly affordable homes to support local communities.’