Ahead of the 70 year anniversary of National Parks in 2019, the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has announced there will be a review of National Parks (NPs) and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England. The review will set out to examine the impact of these areas on contemporary living and will possibly pave the way for the creation of new parks, the government press release suggests.

It was stated along with the announcement that there is no objective of the review to lower protections currently in place to protect the country's NPs and AONBs. The review's focus will, instead, be on how to increase the benefits of these areas to the people who visit them and the animals and plants that live in them.

This includes the benefits of NPs and AONBs on people's health and wellbeing. The review will also seek to find out how connections and contacts between communities, visitors, and nature can be promoted in these special areas.

Authorship of the review

Julian Glover, a writer and former advisor to the government, will lead the review aided by a panel comprised of relevant cross-discipline experts. The review will be conducted as an aspect of the government's 25 Year Environment Plan. This is an initiative to improve the British environment by making the nation greener. Undertaking a review of NPs is one of the guarantees that was made when the Plan was released earlier this year in January.

Other parts of the Plan include aiming for the deliverance of a “Green Brexit as well as extending the current policy of 5p charges on carrier bags in UK retailers.

The significance of National Parks and AONBs

Originally created in 1949 after the passing of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, NPs are deemed to be one of the most important legacies of the Post-War government.

In England, there are currently 10 NPs including Dartmoor in Devon and The Lake District in Cumbria. In addition to the NPs are 34 AONBs which include the Kent Downs in the South East and the Isle of Wight off the southern coast. All areas designated as AONBs have met the “natural beauty criterion” and together represent the majority of features of the English countryside such as forests, coastlines, hills, and wildlife.

NPs and AONBs provide excellent areas for a wide variety of recreational and leisure pursuits for all ages ranging from hiking to fishing.

Combined, NPs and AONBs are visited by 260 million people each year and support 75,000 jobs. They further bring in £20 billion for the rural economy. They are, therefore, of significant value recreationally and economically.

Margaret Paren, Chair of National Parks England, has commented on the review that: “we look forward to a future where [NPs'] beauty is enhanced; they are loved and accessible for everyone, and they continue to support thriving communities in these working landscapes.”