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Delivering for our Protected Landscapes

Volume 737: debated on Wednesday 13 September 2023

Our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), collectively known as Protected Landscapes, are home to some of our most iconic and beautiful places. These remarkable landscapes support our nation’s health and wellbeing and are crucial to delivering our commitments to tackle climate change and restore nature, including our international commitments under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

As we approach the 75th Anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, which legally safeguarded these precious landscapes, the Government are acting to accelerate the recovery of nature in England’s National Parks and AONBs.

Delivering enhanced management plans that contribute to our targets

Through the introduction of new legislation in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, we are enhancing management plans and placing a stronger requirement on partners to contribute to their delivery. This will ensure protected landscapes organisations and their partners collaborate effectively, creating a national network of beautiful, nature-rich spaces that can be enjoyed right across the country. We will table an updated Government amendment to the Bill at Third Reading to deliver this and will shortly publish our response to the Landscapes Review consultation which will set out our action plan for these special places.

We will also shortly publish our new Outcomes Framework. The Outcomes Framework will define the contribution that our protected landscapes should make to national targets to guide local decision-making and prioritisation. This is a landmark step forward in achieving our global goal to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030.

Establishing a new protected landscapes partnership

We are supporting the creation of a new partnership between the National Association for AONBs, National Parks England, National Trails UK and Natural England to deliver a range of exciting projects and programmes on nature recovery and widening access to nature. The partnership will also boost opportunities for private sector investment in our protected landscapes. The first meeting of the partnership will take place by the end of November, and it will be backed by over £2 million of funding.

Enhancing support for farming in protected landscapes

We have extended the Farming in Protected Landscape (FiPL) programme by a further year until March 2025 with £10 million additional funding each year in recognition of the positive feedback and outcomes delivered. In the first two years we have:

Supported more than 2,500 projects, engaging around 5,000 farmers and land managers.

Created 41 new farm clusters and supported more than 100 existing ones.

Funded more than 400 projects to make the landscape more inclusive for visitors, including around 200 projects delivering educational access visits.

Created more than 40 miles of new permissive access.

Engaged more than 5,000 volunteers.

Planted around 100 miles of hedgerow and restored eight miles of dry-stone walling.

Created or restored 262 ponds.

Undertaken positive management on around 27,000ha of SSSIs.

Improved management for biodiversity on around 69,000ha.

Funded more than 400 projects reducing carbon emissions and other forms of pollution.

Restored, enhanced and better interpreted more than 300 historic structures, buildings and features.

Improved access to nature in protected landscapes

The £9.3 million three-year Access for All programme in our protected landscapes is now at the halfway point. We have already distributed £3.6 million to our National Parks and AONBs to deliver accessibility improvements across all 44 Protected Landscapes. This has resulted in more accessible paths, more changing places toilets and rest stops, more accessible physical and digital way-marking of paths including access guides for autistic and visually or hearing-impaired visitors, new equipment such as accessible e-bikes, or beach access kits and other accessible infrastructure such as upgraded bridges.

Together with our local partners, we will ensure people and nature can thrive in these special places for the next 75 years and beyond.

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