With all the Brexit news that’s currently clogging the nation’s airwaves and news feeds with a fatty emulsion of rolling coverage, think-pieces and top 10 Jacob Rees Mogg memes listicles, you’d be forgiven for thinking that almost nothing else is going on in government right now – let alone regarding our antiquated National Parks system, which is quietly about to turn 70 later this year.
Well, happily, you’d be wrong. Way back in May 2018, which might as well have been a decade ago in the current fast-moving climate of UK politics, then Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove announced a comprehensive review of our National Park services. This September it has finally been published, in a nice and shiny 168-page document.
Setting Out Steps
The report was headed up by the journalist and former government advisor on environmental policy, Julian Glover. It aimed to look at the areas in which National Park management could be improved, how these improvements could be enacted and whether the existing systems and legal frameworks are still sufficient for their purpose. Considering many aspects of the service have seen little change since the 1970s, this is a very welcome move.
Over the 15 months that the report was researched and written, team members visited each of the UK’s 10 Parks and 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, along with many other currently unprotected wild areas. They also met with the US National Park Service, sharing experiences on the various challenges and how to deal with them, and then held a three-month public consultation which accrued over 2000 responses.
A Bold Plan
Alongside promises of ‘reform’ for National Park governance, criticised as currently ‘unrepresentative of wider society’, Mr Glover’s report also recommends a few surprising new schemes. One idea that promises to grab most of the headlines, is yearly organised outings to National Parks (including the possibility of camping) for every school in the UK. They also advise that a 1000 strong ranger service should be employed to raise the profile of National Parks among the nation’s urban and younger populations and contribute towards the upkeep and welfare of the parks.
The review also supported the foundation of a new National Park in the Chilterns, and a new ‘national forest’ in Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire area of the Midlands. Mr Glover’s report often stresses the need for more naturally forested areas, and not just monoculture tree groves, in order to sequester our carbon dioxide emissions and tackle climate change. What better way to get people enthused about protecting our biodiversity and natural landscapes, than through the National Park service?
“These landscapes are the jewels in the crown of our countryside and are a cornerstone of our rural economy. We are committed to ensuring they flourish as havens for nature and sites that everyone in the country goes to visit for inspiration, adventure or relaxation,” said the new Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers upon the report’s release. Although, with parliament currently sitting out until October – any recommendations are unlikely to be put into law anytime soon.