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National Parks

National Parks are extensive tracts of the countryside that have been given strong protection under legislation and the planning system for the conservation and enhancement of their special qualities. There are currently nine National Parks in England plus the Broads Authority, which cover 9% of the English landscape.

The case for government action

The two purposes of the National Parks are to:

  • conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and
  • promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public.

If there is a conflict between the two, conservation takes precedence. National Park Authorities are responsible for carrying out these duties.

Latest news

Key facts and figures

There are currently nine National Parks and the Broads Authority in England:

The Broads does not have a National Park designation, however since 1989 it has been given equivalent status with an Authority set up to manage the area. The Broads Authority must adhere to the purpose/obligations set out for all National Park authorities, and must additionally protect the interests of navigation.

The current situation and background

  • English National Park and Broads Authorities are funded by central government. Where possible, National Park and Broads Authorities also take advantage of Lottery and European grants and collaborative projects.
  • Planning policies and decisions must give great weight to conservation of the natural beauty of the countryside, and major development should not take place save in exceptional circumstances.
  • English National Park Authorities are made up from:
    • Local authority appointees,
    • Secretary of State (‘national’ appointees), and
    • Secretary of State (‘parish’ nominees).

The basic rules determining the size of these groups within an authority are that:-

  • every district, county, or unitary authority with land in a Park will be entitled to appoint at least one member unless it chooses to opt out; and
  • the total number of local authority and parish members must exceed the number of ‘national’ members.

The majority of the English National Park Boards currently have 22 members, except the Peak District which has 30 and the South Downs which has 27.

Every year the Secretary of State seeks nominations for appointees to the National Park authorities and the Broads Authority.

Key legislation

  • English Parks are designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. They are created when the Secretary of State confirms the designations. Welsh and Scottish Parks are the responsibility of the devolved Welsh Assembly Government and The Scottish Government
  • The Broads Authority was established under its own primary legislation, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988 to manage the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads in recognition of its navigation opportunities as well as conservation and recreation.

Key publications and documents

  • Further information on National Parks is available on Directgov.
  • If you are planning to visit a National Park, want to know about parks in your area or get involved in looking after them, information is available on the National Parks website.
  • There is a general statutory duty on all relevant authorities to have regard to the purposes of national parks when making decisions affecting these areas. A guidance note explaining the duties (PDF 100 KB) is available.
  • CO2 Emissions Estimates for 2006 for English National Parks. Information note (PDF 120 KB) and data sheet (Excel 40 KB)

Page last modified: 23 February 2011

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