For those involved in managing the National Park, it’s about finding a balance between protecting environmentally sensitive landscapes and wildlife, helping to support the economic and social sustainability of the area and encouraging people to use the special qualities of the National Park for fun, recreation, health and well-being.
The National Park Authority does not normally need to be consulted about smaller sized events (less than 50 walkers or 30 bicycles/horses) as any potential negative impacts are reduced because the numbers taking part are fewer.
However, organisers will still have to undertake various checks to ensure your event meets with the necessary requirements. For example, commercial events, (paid for guided walks), are not permitted on ‘Access Land’ without the landowner’s consent and for any planned activity within or passing through a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Natural England should be contacted. You may wish to contact us if your event is unusual or takes place in a particularly sensitive location. In particular, Authority staff manage the Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail and we can advise on aspects such as footpath and site carrying capacities, catering facilities and appropriate toilet stops, drop off and pick up locations amongst other things.
We would encourage you to start planning your event at least 12 months beforehand and make contact with land managers/owners over whose land you’d like to run your event to discuss your proposals. Site visits and face to face meetings are much better than letters and phone calls. Reassure them that you have plans in place to put right and restore any damage that may occur as a result of your event taking place. Working positively throughout the whole process is of mutual benefit and by avoiding potential conflict and developing a reputation as a responsible event organiser pays dividends in the long run.
Wherever practical, plan your route to use existing public rights of way, paths and tracks. Think about appropriate numbers of participants for the location and avoid remote areas with difficult access or routes crossing fragile habits such as peatland as these tend not to be sustainable in the long term. An interactive map of the public rights of way network across the National Park is available on the Northumberland County Council’s website. The Authority may ask that before and after photos of some of the more sensitive locations of a route are taken (e.g. pinch points) as a record of the scale of impact of the event and to help inform infrastructure maintenance in the future.
Consider the time of year. Particular care should be placed around environmental sensitivities associated with bird breeding or lambing seasons (31st March to 1st July). Many areas of the National Park are subject to national and international conservation designations – Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), etc. Where events are taking place on sites designated as SSSI, then consent will need to be sought from Natural England. Northumberland is also rich in archaeological remains and care must therefore be taken not to damage the large number of historical sites within the National Park. Work with local organisations during and after the event to make sure you avoid damaging the site. Consider timing to avoid clashes with other events or seasonal activities.
Think also about the impact your event may have on others visiting the area for quiet enjoyment and recreation.
Think about how participants will get to the start point for your event. Check out local transport links and be aware of any potential parking issues.
Communication is key. Reassure everyone that you are serious about minimising the impacts of your event whilst at the same time maximising the benefits to the local community and economy.
Be aware that mobile phone coverage is patchy in the National Park and the use of phones cannot generally be relied upon as your communication method for an event.
Finally, be aware of the carbon footprint of your planned activity. National Park Authorities are aware of the climate crisis and have pledged to achieving carbon neutrality, in line with government net-zero targets.
It is vital that you have your planning and permissions in place before you promote your event.