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Designation and how we work

State of the National Park

Waterfall in Harthope Valley (small)Northumberland National Park Authority is a conservation organisation. National Park status is the highest form of landscape protection in the UK. Of the 11 National Parks in England and Wales, Northumberland is the most northerly, most remote from large urban areas, least visited and least populated.

National Parks resulted from the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. When the designation of the first Parks began in 1951, concerns were raised by residents and politicians, who feared strict planning controls and a massive influx of visitors to the areas. As a result, the Parks are concentrated on the country’s major areas of remote upland landscape.

When Northumberland National Park came into being in 1956 (administered by Northumberland County Council until 1997), its boundary was drawn up close to the upland areas, with any significantly-sized settlement remaining outside.

Consequently, Elsdon village, with about 50 homes, is the largest settlement in the Park, while larger scenic villages like Bellingham and pleasant towns like Rothbury are excluded.

Prior to designation, there was great debate about which parts of Northumberland’s diverse landscape should be included. The coast was left out, but has since been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The majority of Kielder Forest was also excluded, but has since become part of the Border Forest Park.

So what was included? The answer is the rich heritage of Hadrian’s Wall, the breathtaking beauty of the remote uplands of the Cheviot Hills and the fine historical landscapes of the border valleys to the Scottish Border.

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Planning in the National Park

Northumberland National Park Authority is the statutory Planning Authority for the area of the Northumberland National Park. View our planning pages here.