The review covered national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs). It recognises the great importance of these landscapes and the affection for them, while noting that their founding mission has been eroded, and that they lack a common ambition.
There are 27 proposals. Held to account by a new National Landscape Service (NLS) with a small board, national parks and AONBs should be closely aligned. They should share the same purposes, to include nature recovery and enhancement, and connections with all parts of society. A new, third purpose should be to ‘foster the economic and community vitality of their area in support of the first two purposes’.
National landscapes should have a central place in the new environmental land management scheme for agricultural grants, and AONBs should have statutory consultee status in the planning system.
The recommendation, that every child in Britain must spend a night under the stars, was the eye-catching headline. However, proposals for people include a 1,000-strong, professional ranger service for the national landscapes; new long-term programmes to increase the ethnic diversity of visitors; greater open-access rights; and inclusion of national trails within the NLS.
The process for designating national landscapes should be simplified. The Chilterns, Cotswolds, Dorset, and East Devon AONBs should be national parks, and other places should be designated.
There are proposed changes to governance, to be driven by the NLS. These include: fewer and more diverse members on boards, ambitious management plans for nature, people and communities, and a new financial model with more money for national landscapes.
We should have liked a recommendation for properly-enforced speed limits on unfenced roads across commons, to ensure grazing can thrive there—but generally we welcome the report. Now we must ensure that government acts. The Campaign for National Parks is working with a number of organisations, including the society, to bring the recommendations to fruition.