DEFRA’s Landscapes Review update on National Parks and AONBs

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published  its Review to consider the next steps for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England.

In May 2018 the government asked for an independent review into whether the protections for National Parks and AONBs are still fit for purpose. In particular, what might be done better, what changes will help and whether the definitions and systems in place are still valid. The review’s final report was published on 21 September 2019. It was led by Julian Glover and supported by an experienced advisory group: Lord Cameron of Dillington, Jim Dixon, Sarah Mukherjee, Dame Fiona Reynolds and Jake Fiennes.

The review’s terms of reference set out what it looked at and how it was carried out.

What was the review about?
It is 70 years since a bold decision was taken by Parliament to preserve some of England’s finest landscapes and help people visit and enjoy them. England is home to 10 National Parks and 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). Their rugged mountains, dramatic coastlines, farmed landscapes and vast moorlands attract more than 260 million visitors a year and are home to over 2.3 million people.

Seven decades after a visionary report by Sir Arthur Hobhouse that led to their creation, it’s time to renew the mission. As part of the 25 Year Environment Plan, the government asked Julian Glover to lead an expert panel looking at how these protections can be renewed. The review’s purpose was to ask what might be done better, what changes could assist these areas, and whether definitions and systems – which in many cases date back to their original creation – are still sufficient. Weakening or undermining their existing protections or geographic scope were not considered.

The review looked at:

  • the existing statutory purposes for National Parks and AONBs and how effectively they are being met
  • the alignment of these purposes with the goals set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan
  • the case for extension or creation of new designated areas
  • how to improve individual and collective governance of National Parks and AONBs, and how that governance interacts with other national assets
  • the financing of National Parks and AONBs
  • how to enhance the environment and biodiversity in existing designations
  • how to build on the existing 8-point plan for National Parks and connect more people with the natural environment from all sections of society and improve health and wellbeing
  • how well National Parks and AONBs support communities
  • the process of designating National Parks and AONBs and extending boundary areas, with a view to improving and expediting the process

In the 15 months of the review, members of the panel:

  • went to every English National Park and AONB
  • visited National Parks in Scotland and many unprotected
  • held many meetings with bodies representing those interested in our landscape
  • held a public call for evidence between October and December 2018 which received over 2,500 responses
  • met the US National Park Service and Foundation, providing an international comparison and sharing knowledge and experiences


DOWNLOAD the review

For more background see NewsBlog

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