Recovery of nature in England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) is to be accelerated through a package of measures, including new legislation through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey has announced.

National Parks and AONBs (Protected Landscapes) are the country’s most iconic and beautiful places – representing our shared heritage and national identity. These characteristic landscapes contain swathes of ancient woodland, deep peat and grassland, and many of our most threatened species.

Home to a long tradition of farming in tune with the landscape, government has invested £25 million in thriving farming businesses which are crucial to these areas through our successful Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme which has been extended to 2025 with additional funding.

The government intends to introduce amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill at Third Reading, enhancing Protected Landscape management plans and placing a stronger requirement on partners such as local authorities and public bodies to contribute to their delivery.

The measures come as the sector marks ‘Back British Farming day’ and will ensure that Protected Landscapes organisations and their partners collaborate effectively, creating a national network of beautiful, nature-rich spaces that can be enjoyed by all parts of society.

Thérèse Coffey, Environment Secretary, said:

Our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are home to some of our most iconic and beautiful places and these new measures will help ensure that they play an enhanced role in the recovery of nature in our country.

We anticipate that through these measures, Protected Landscapes will be able to make a major contribution to meeting our international commitment to protect 30% of land for biodiversity by 2030, as well as our Environment Act targets to halt and then reverse the decline in nature.

Neil Heseltine, Chair of National Parks England said:

The announcement by Government that it will come forward with new legislation via the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill to strengthen the requirements on partners to contribute to protected landscape management plans is very welcome news.

As a family of National Parks we have campaigned for these changes, which are critical to driving co-ordinated action across partners in conserving and enhancing the environment and beauty of our National Parks. Government acknowledged the weakness of the current provisions in its response to Julian Glover’s Landscapes Review last year. We look forward to seeing the new Outcomes Framework and working with government to ensure that National Parks play a significant part in meeting our target to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030.

Tony Juniper CBE, Chair of Natural England, said:

As the country’s official national advisory body on Protected Landscapes Natural England very much welcomes this important step to more strongly integrate efforts to protect and enhance beautiful places with work to protect and recover Nature.

The new Protected Landscapes Partnership offers more opportunity to give practical effect to this mission and we look forward to working with everyone in driving forward with enhanced ambition and confidence in meeting national environmental targets.

Government is also set to publish its response to the Landscapes Review consultation and a new Outcomes Framework. These measures will set out our plan of action for these special places and define the contribution that our Protected Landscapes should make to national environmental targets. This will be a landmark step forward in achieving our global goal to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030.

A new Protected Landscapes Partnership backed by over £2 million of funding will bring together national organisations representing England’s National Parks, AONBs, National Trails and Natural England to collaborate, share knowledge and tackle common objectives such as nature recovery and improved public access.

Together, this package of measures delivers government commitments following the Landscapes Review, which set out how we can support our landscapes to deliver more for people and nature.

This comes as the government confirms it has extended funding to boost access and support those farming in national parks and AONBs through the Farming in Protected Landscape programme, extending it by a further year until March 2025 with £10 million additional funding each year.

To date it has supported more than 2,500 projects including over 400 to make the landscape more inclusive for visitors and the planting of over 100 miles of hedgerows.

As we approach the 75th Anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, which legally safeguarded these precious landscapes this announcement forms part of the government’s wider action to recover and restore nature, delivering on the pledge to protect 30% of the UK’s land by 2030, Environment Act targets to halt and then restore the decline of nature and commitments to achieve net zero by 2050.

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