Independent report

Landscapes review: National Parks and AONBs

Review to consider the next steps for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England.

Documents

Details

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.

Panel team standing by a car in front of open countryside

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

What the review panel did

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 landscapes
  • 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

Who was involved

Picture of the review panel leaning against a fence on a cliff edge overlooking the sea

Julian Glover – Lead reviewer

Associate editor at the London Evening Standard and author of the biography “Man of Iron: Thomas Telford and the Building of Britain”. He has worked as leader writer and columnist at the Guardian and as a Special Adviser in Number 10 and the Department for Transport.

Lord Cameron of Dillington

Cross-bench peer, farmer and landowner. As the former Chair of the Countryside Agency, he is a strong advocate for rural affairs. He is currently the chair of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 Committee and the Advisory Council for the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. He is also on the Steering Board of the Government’s Global Food Security Programme.

Jim Dixon

Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority for 12 years, before stepping down in 2014. He is currently a writer on countryside issues, including for the Times, and a trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Sarah Mukherjee

Former BBC environment and rural affairs correspondent and previous Director of Environment at Water UK. She is currently Chief Executive of the Crop Protection Association. She is a trustee and advisory group member for several charities, supporting both environmental stewardship and education in farming.

Dame Fiona Reynolds

Formerly the Director-General of the National Trust and current Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and Chair of the Green Alliance. She is the author of “The Fight for Beauty” (2016), a history of thought and public policy on landscapes and environment in Britain.

Jake Fiennes

Became General Manager for Conservation of the 25,000 acre Holkham Estate in autumn 2018 after 24 years as Estate Manager promoting nature conservation alongside arable farming at Raveningham Estate. He is also a trustee and advisory group member of several organisations including the National Farmers’ Union’s Environmental Forum and the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group.

Published 27 May 2018
Last updated 25 September 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated final report with minor corrections. Summary of findings added.
  2. Final report published.
  3. Updated the "What happens next" section and added the interim finding letters document.
  4. Removed reference to the call for evidence as this closed in December 2018.
  5. Added a link to the call for evidence that was launched on 20 October 2018. The closing date for responses is 18 December 2018.
  6. Updated the publication page with information on the review.
  7. Updated to reflect that Nicola Blackwood has resigned from her role.
  8. Added Jake Fiennes as a group member.
  9. Updated as James Rebanks has resigned from the designated landscapes review panel.
  10. Added the names of the people that will form the advisory group for this review.
  11. First published.