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and similar designations in the UK
National Parks in the UK are areas which were mostly set aside in the 1950s and 1960s by the state because of their outstanding value in terms of natural beauty, ecological, archaeological, geological and other features, and recreational value. There are fifteen such parks in the UK, plus the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, which has equivalent status but which the Government has not designated as a formal National Park. National Parks in Scotland (and Northern Ireland, although none yet exist in the province) are administered under slightly different legislation to England and Wales, but for most purposes they can be considered equivalent.
Where are they?
There is a good map of these areas, and much information about national parks in the UK on the National Parks website.
Who owns the National Parks?
National Parks are not publicly owned land but, like AONBs, are a designation which confers special protection upon land within it because of its landscape quality. This means that resources are available to promote and manage tourism within the area, special funds may be available to land owners, and that certain restrictions apply on many types of development. people live and work in national parks, there are towns and industrial areas. In the UK, National Parks are not wildernesses. This makes them different from national parks in most of the rest of the world.
Despite this, many National Parks do have large areas which are accessible to the public, and National Parks sometimes negotiate such access agreements with landowners. The National Trust, a private charity, owns about 12% of the Peak District National Park, the oldest National Park, and more than 25% of the Lake District, as well as many other large areas of other Parks. Although the National Trust is independent of the National Parks, most of the land it owns is open for public access.
How are they run?
National Parks are run by special bodies called National Park Authorities. There is a list of these below, with contact details. These are similar to local councils and have many of the powers that councils have in other areas, particularly the power to control development. Funding is complex but essentially the National Park Authorities are funded by central government.
There are National Park Committees in each park who employ people such as rangers and wardens. In England and Wales they are responsible for conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park and improving opportunities for public understanding and enjoyment of the Park. If there is a conflict between these two purposes, greater weight is given to conservation than recreation.
Much of the work of National Park Authorities is by necessity concerned with dealing with tourist pressure. Many areas of the National Parks are under immense pressure from visitors. There is an ongoing debate about the damage caused by the amount of human and vehicular traffic that such areas generate. Apparently, by the number of times we get asked this one, this is a very popular essay topic. So here's a link to some resources to help you find the answer: Impacts Of Tourism On The Environment.
National Parks in Scotland
National Parks in Scotland are slightly different from those in England and Wales. The first was designated in 2002.
The National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 sets out the four aims of National Parks in Scotland. These are:
• To conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage;
• To promote the sustainable use of the natural resources of the area;
• To promote understanding and enjoyment (including enjoyment in the form of recreation) of the special qualities of the area by the public; and
• To promote sustainable social and economic development of the communities of the area.
The role of the National Park Authority is to ensure that these aims are pursued collectively, and in ways which protect the natural and cultural heritage of the area in the long-term. All of the aims have equal status, however, if it appears that there is a conflict between the conservation and enhancement of the natural and cultural heritage and other National Park aims, then the Park Authority must give greater weight to this aim.
New National Parks
Although for many years no new parks were made, since 1997 there were political moves towards designating new national parks in the UK and some have now been created. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park was the first of these, and was designated in July 2002, followed by the Cairngorms National Park in 2003. New Forest National Park was designated in 2005, and the South Downs National Park was the most recent area to be deignated in 2010.
In October 2002 it was announced that the Mournes could become Northern Ireland's first national park. We confidently predicted at the time that this will take some time to become reality - and 21 years later it still hasn't happened; so don't hold your breath.
Links for further information
• Council for National Parks
• Association of National Park Authorities
• Wikipedia: National Parks of England and Wales
• There is some good information from Natural England about National Parks
Contact information and relevant links for UK National Parks and equivalent bodies
Official websites are linked from the titles of the Park; other sites below the contact details may be described as 'unofficial' - this simply mean that they are not created by the relevant National Park Authority- it is no reflection on their quality and in fact, they are sometimes a bit better than the official ones. That's why we include them.
Organisations which are not National Parks (yet)
These bodies are not National Parks but in some cases may become one in due course. They are all similar to National Parks in some ways, some more so than others.