Access to the countryside

Supporting detail:

Protected landscapes: areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks

There are 2 kinds of English protected landscapes:

We protect these through laws and through the planning system, to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of their areas, and in National Parks to also conserve and enhance their wildlife and cultural heritage.

National Parks have an additional purpose to promote opportunities for open-air recreation. When there is a conflict between conservation and recreation, conservation takes precedence.

National Park Authorities have a duty ‘in pursuing their purposes, to foster the economic and social well-being of their local communities’.

The Broads Authority

The Broads Authority is considered to be a member of the National Parks family, but it’s not legally a National Park. It was established under its own tailor-made laws, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1989. It shares the same purposes as AONBs and National Parks, but also has the purpose of protecting the interest of navigation.

Managing AONBs and National Parks

National Parks are managed by independent National Park authorities, which are the sole local planning authorities for their areas.

Responsibility for the 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) lies with the relevant local authorities, who are also responsible for planning matters. To help with managing AONBs, 32 local advisory committees have been established, which involve all the local authorities within the AONB area.

For two of the larger AONBs (Cotswolds and Chilterns), Conservation Boards have been established to manage the areas.

Both National Park authorities and Conservation Boards have a proportion of their membership appointed by the Defra Secretary of State. We’re reviewing the governance of National Parks and the Broads to improve local accountability. Draft laws will be published, when Parliamentary time allows, that would enable direct elections to National Park authorities in England.

Natural England’s role with National parks in England

Funding AONBs and National Parks

National Park Authorities are 100% funded by central government. However, as they’re corporate bodies operating within the local government framework, they can also get funding from other sources (like the EU or charities).

Conservation Boards get 80% of their funding directly from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). They also get funding from local authorities, and can get funding from other sources.

AONB partnerships receive 75% of their funding from Defra and 25% from local authorities and other sources. Being part of local government means they can also attract external funding.

Extending the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks

Natural England has made two Variation Orders under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 to extend the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks.

The public inquiry, which heard over 3,000 objections and representations to these orders, has now closed and the Inspector is preparing the report for the Secretary of State.

Key publications