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Volume 556: debated on Thursday 17 January 2013


Thursday 17 January 2013


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Wild land and wild places

The Petition of citizens of the UK,

Declares that the Petitioners support the John Muir Trust’s call to extend National Park Boundaries, or put in place new National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and to ensure improved environmental protection for the best areas of wild land.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to extend National Park boundaries, or to put in place new National Parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty as called for by the John Muir Trust.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Glyn Davies, Official Report, 12 December 2012; Vol. 555, c. 416.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

The Government recognise the importance of protecting our finest landscapes and the health and well-being benefits that access to the natural environment can bring. National Parks and AONB are areas recognised as being of the very highest value for their landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage. They are protected to safeguard and enhance their special qualities. There are 15 National Parks in the UK and 46 AONB.

In England, it is for Natural England to recommend the designation of a particular area, and a National Park or AONB is created when the Secretary of State confirms the designation. Approximately 23% of the land area of England is currently designated as either National Park or AONB, with the most recent National Park being South Downs, designated in 2010. Natural England has also recommended extensions to two of England’s Parks, the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. If the proposals are approved, a further 488 square kilometres will be added. Future work on landscape designations will be guided by a Designations Strategy adopted by Natural England in July 2012. A number of potential future AONB boundary variations will be considered later this year by Natural England in consultation with affected Local Authorities.

In Wales it is for the Countryside Council for Wales to make an order designating a particular area, and for the Welsh Ministers to confirm, vary or reject that order as they see fit. Over 24% of land in Wales in designated as either a national park or as an AONB. The most recent designation was confirmed by Welsh Ministers in November 2011 when the Clwydian Range AONB was significantly extended to create the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB.

In Scotland, there is separate National Parks legislation and designation is the responsibility of the Scottish Government. In 2010 Ministers extended the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park to include part of Highland Perthshire. Scotland has two types of protected area with a specific landscape focus—National Scenic Areas and National Parks. These cover almost 20% of Scotland’s land area.

In Northern Ireland the designation of National Parks and AONBs is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment. There are eight AONBs designated, including a re-designation of Strangford and Lecale in 2010 which allows for voluntary management plans to be developed. There are no plans to amend the boundaries of any NI AONBS. There are currently no National parks in Northern Ireland, although the DOE is proposing to take forward enabling legislation for a revised NI model. The DOE Minister is seeking the agreement of the NI Executive to this initiative.