Ambitious proposals to strengthen UK’s protected landscapes announced

Hiking in Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Plans to boost nature recovery and safeguard England’s iconic national parks for future generations have been set out by Environment Secretary George Eustice.

The proposals, which will be subject to consultation, are set out in the government’s response to Julian Glover’s independent Landscapes Review which 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 ambitious 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 we build back greener from the pandemic and level up all parts of the country.

A new national landscapes partnership will bring together those responsible for managing England’s National Parks and AONBs to collaborate, share knowledge and tackle common objectives such as nature recovery and improved public access.

The 12-week consultation will also ask for views on proposals to drive nature recovery within our landscapes and support for the communities that live and work within them, such as the design and delivery of new agri-environment schemes and an ambitious management plan for each area.

The announcement forms part of the government’s wider action to recover and restore nature, delivering on the pledge within the 25 Year Environment Plan to protect 30 per cent of the UK’s land by 2030 and commitments to achieve net zero by 2050.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice said: “Our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are amongst our nation’s greatest and most cherished natural wonders.

“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.”

Protected landscapes play an essential role in tackling climate change, protecting biodiversity, and supporting the nation’s health and wellbeing.

Evidence from Natural England shows that almost half the population say that they are spending more time outside than before the pandemic, while the majority of adults surveyed by Forest Research agreed that their level of happiness when in nature has increased.

However, the pandemic has also highlighted the inequalities of access to greenspaces, with evidence from Natural England demonstrating that approximately a third of those on the lowest incomes visited a natural space in a typical week during the pandemic, compared to almost 60 per cent amongst those on high incomes.

Chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper said: “From the beauty of the sandy beaches of the Scillies to the rugged glory of Northumberland, our protected landscapes are integral to our national identity, our health and wellbeing and our country’s prosperity.

“As government’s statutory landscape advisor, Natural England has a pivotal role in making sure our National Parks and AONBs are beautiful, thriving places.

“We welcome this package of measures which will help them deliver even more for the whole of society and combat the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“We look forward to playing a leading role in the national landscapes partnership and working closely with government, protected landscape bodies and stakeholders to deliver these ambitious proposals.”

The newly announced measures aim to increase people’s access to nature, so more of England can benefit from having access to beautiful nature-rich landscapes.

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