Guidance

Get accreditation for a country park you manage in England

How to get accredited status for your country park, find out if you’re eligible, how to apply and what happens next.

Why get accredited

Country parks are areas for people to visit and enjoy recreation in a countryside environment. Managers can apply for accreditation for their country parks. Accreditation shows potential visitors that your country park has essential facilities and services that you would expect to see in a country park. The accreditation criteria show designers and planners what a good country park should offer.

Accredited country parks receive a:

Who can apply

Managers of country parks can apply for free. You can even apply if your site has another primary function as long as it has the facilities expected of a country park.

To get accreditation, you need to send Natural England evidence that your park meets the following criteria. You may have most of this in your management plan. Natural England will:

  • accept written statements, maps, activity programmes, leaflets and photos
  • give you the full criteria and ideas for evidence to submit when you contact it to apply

Your site must have all of the essential criteria and at least 10 of the desirable criteria to get accreditation.

Essential criteria

Your park must be:

  • at least 10 hectares in size
  • defined by a clear boundary – marked on a map, whether it’s open or fenced in
  • accessible – less than 10 miles from a residential area
  • free to enter
  • inclusive and accessible – show how you’ve met equality and disability needs and provided for varied groups
  • predominantly natural or semi-natural landscape, for example woodland, grassland, wetland, heathland or parkland, with no more than 5% of the area built upon (excluding car parks)
  • signposted and easy to navigate – you should show visitors where they can go, what they can do and direct them along footpaths, bridleways and cycle routes
  • visibly staffed, for example litter collection and maintenance
  • available for public or educational events
  • near public toilets – either on-site or a 2 minute walk away
  • informed by the local community – the public should have some influence over the management and development of your site

Desirable criteria

Your park should ideally have:

  • a visitor centre
  • play facilities
  • catering
  • bike and horse trails
  • art and sculpture
  • permanent staff presence during the day
  • detailed information available to visitors, such as leaflets
  • brown and white tourist directional signs and shown on an OS map
  • activities outside, such as water sports and adventure sports
  • achieved, or is working towards, Green Flag Award (GFA) status
  • a green transport policy, such as buses and cycle routes to your site
  • facilities for less able visitors, such as easy trails, seats and information available in accessible formats
  • planned for the management of biodiversity, geodiversity and preservation of historical environment
  • opportunities for practical community involvement, such as volunteering
  • promoted the health benefits of walking
  • an outreach programme promoting your site to less represented sectors of the community
  • a programme of events and guided walks, promoting healthy living and environmental awareness

How to apply

  1. Email cpas@naturalengland.org.uk or call 0300 060 1115 for an application form and further advice.
  2. Complete the Microsoft Excel form that Natural England will email to you.
  3. Return the form and all evidence to cpas@naturalengland.org.uk.

You should only post your application if you’re sending:

  • more than 7MB of data - put it on a CD, not a memory stick
  • physical items, such as leaflets and photos, that you cannot scan

Mark the envelope and documents with your reference number (starting with CPACC) that’s on the applicant details page of your form. Send it to:

Country Parks Accreditation Scheme
Natural England
County Hall
Spetchley Road
Worcester
WR5 2NP

Next steps

If you prove your park meets the criteria, Natural England will accredit it for 3 years and send you a certificate. After 3 years, Natural England will ask you to send updated evidence to renew your status.

If your evidence does not prove that your site meets the required standard, Natural England will tell you where it needs more evidence and give you 2 weeks to submit it. If the further evidence still does not prove your site meets the criteria, Natural England will invite you to reapply when the site has all of the facilities and services required.

If you’re unsuccessful, Natural England will give advice on networking opportunities to improve your site and evidence for areas needing improvement which can be useful for funding applications.

Checking standards

Natural England conducts ‘mystery shopper’-style visits to accredited country parks. If your park does not meet the criteria, Natural England will give you a report and one month to bring your park up to standard.

After this, if your site no longer meets the criteria, Natural England will withdraw your accredited status. You’ll need to return your certificate and stop using the logo on your marketing.

You can reapply for accreditation once you can prove that your site meets the accreditation criteria.

Published 2 October 2014