April 2022 –
A Lost Opportunity for the Future of our Protected Landscapes?
“It is essential that our cultural heritage is preserved and restored for the nation, and that sufficient funding is made available.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have issued their response nearly four years after the government launched its independent Review. Led by Julian Glover, its remit was to consider what changes needed to be made to ensure that the protection afforded to National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs) remained fit for purpose.
In its response, Defra sets out plans to create a new National Landscapes Partnership of existing partners to work more effectively at a national level. It also set out aims of strengthening the terminology around the statutory purpose of National Parks, in terms of approaching landscape degradation and biodiversity loss.
In general, the Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA) supports measures to improve governance, provided that the right tools and adequate resources are made available to carry them out. The DPA welcome the decision not to proceed with the proposed National Landscapes Service and are pleased to note that government has not supported the suggestion in the Landscapes Review that the National Park Authority (NPA)’s planning function should be removed as part of the governance reforms. However, careful consideration must be given to ensure that it is sufficiently flexible to create a workable balance between local and national priorities and to maintain local democracy.
Furthermore, any strengthening of the purposes should recognise the “special qualities” of the protected landscapes, their individual identities and cultural heritage. On the issue of cultural heritage, Defra has remained quiet, as DPA Trustees add, “we find it disappointing and disturbing that the Defra response and consultation is almost silent on cultural heritage. The archaeology, artefacts, buildings, and other items of special architectural, historical, or natural value are an integral part of the special qualities of our designated landscapes. It is essential that they are investigated, preserved, and restored for the nation and that sufficient funding is made available for these purposes.”
Trustees agreed that the government’s response fails to give a commitment to providing adequate multi-year funding for National Parks to carry out its ambitious proposals for climate change and the environment. The DPA does not believe that the ongoing shortfall from the sums required to manage the Parks can consistently and effectively be generated by raising private sector finance. It is also not clear whether sufficient thought has gone into resolving the conflicts between the recovery and enhancement of nature and the desire to increase visitor numbers. The NPAs are not resourced or equipped to manage this on their own. Sustainable transport, the growth of electric vehicles and the use of hubs to help manage visitors, will change the culture of how visits are made to NPAs and will all need funding.
Without the necessary political will and the funding needed to deliver some of Defra’s ‘bigger picture’ proposals, there is a real risk that the Landscapes Review will become a lost opportunity for the future of our protected landscapes. The DPA has submitted a full response to the government’s consultation exercise and will provide further updates via their website: www.dartmoorpreservation.co.uk.