Positive ambition but where are the resources?

Northumberland National Park Authority has cautiously welcomed the government’s response to the 2019 Landscapes Review. National Parks and AONBs are the nation’s finest landscapes; originally designated for their natural beauty and value for people’s health and well-being. The response sets out Government ambitions for National Parks and AONBs to deliver more to fight climate change, restore nature and ensure these unique and special landscapes are enjoyed by a more diverse range of people, but there are concerns over the resources needed.

‘Northumberland National Park Authority shares Government’s ambitions; they echo the enterprising and progressive projects we have already undertaken, including The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre and the Cheviot Hills Peat Restoration Project, and initiatives well underway to restore nature within the North East’s national park. However, for Northumberland, there is one key element missing from the proposals and that is government investment.’

The Designated Landscapes Review, led by Julian Glover, recognised that ambitious plans needed to be matched by funds and there is a real danger that without greater government funding, much of the positive ambition set out in the response will simply not happen.

Northumberland National Park faces the prospect of a real terms reduction in its core budget over the next three years, yet it has huge potential to deliver on the government’s aims. We want our fair share to enable us to do more; Northumberland National Park has the potential to accelerate and expand the work we are already doing to address the key issues in our society – improved health and wellbeing for our people, protection from flooding, storing carbon to fight climate change, recovering nature and support for rural economies; all of which will lead to an improved quality of life for everyone.

The coronavirus pandemic has shown how much people value our National Parks. When faced with such uncertainty, people chose to spend time connecting with nature. Whilst this posed some challenges in terms of visitor behaviours, it also showed just how much these iconic landscapes matter, not only to the people who live and work in the landscape but to the people in urban areas, who want to explore and enjoy the countryside to support their own health and well-being.

Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said:

“As an enterprising National Park, we recognise additional funding can come from philanthropic and private funding, but not without sufficient core government investment. Over the past decade, funding has been continuously stripped from the core government grant given to National Parks, with this set to decline further in the coming years.

“The government response rightly contains many forward thinking and laudable ambitions for the future of our national parks and AONBs, but it is not clear that many of these have been costed and we urge the government to consider how greater and more secure government investment could deliver the ambition set out for our finest landscapes. Without it, our capacity to deliver on these new plans will be severely affected and that is our greatest concern.”