English national parks welcome £4.4m funding boost from government

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England’s national parks are set to receive £4.4million from the government to help them protect the environment and support tourism.

England’s 10 national parks will split the funds equally, using the money to support park rangers and maintain visitor and education centers and help improve public access to the landscape through new footpaths.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the grant was awarded in recognition of the role national parks play in preserving wildlife and natural landscapes and boosting the regional economy.

The funding comes after campaigners warned that national parks are facing an existential crisis due to cuts over the past decade, with some planning to close visitor centers and reduce ranger services, as well as sell off publicly owned land.

The Campaign for National Parks charity said park authorities from Northumberland to Dartmoor had raised serious concerns about their financial viability. Its chief executive, Rose O’Neill, said: “This bailout throws out a much-needed lifeline for our national parks at a desperate time – it must be the start of a new deal that combines greater powers with long-term funding.

Our top priority for this money will be to keep the Princetown Visitor Center open

Pamela Woods, Dartmoor National Park

“We are pleased that the Government has recognized the vital importance of these beloved national assets. With funding for national parks falling by 40% in real terms over the past decade, this increase – which accounts for around 10% of the total annual budget – is very welcome.”

O’Neill warned that this could not be a “one off event” and that the country needs a properly funded national park network. The extra money, she added, “needs to be combined with new powers to drive investment from water companies and other entities.” This will help the parks in terms of “sustainable economic growth, addressing the climate and natural emergency, and improving people’s health and well-being.”

Dartmoor National Parks Authority, which was facing a £500,000 funding shortfall, said the new funds could help them keep a visitor center up and running.

Its Chair, Pamela Woods, said: “This is very welcome news and provides us with the money we need to keep core services running for the immediate future. Our top priority for this money will be to keep the Princetown Visitor Center open. But we must remember that this is actually a band-aid. A one-time payment does not solve the underlying problem of how to sustain core services in the face of 12 years of real cuts.”

Tony Gates, chief executive of Northumberland National Parks, said the funding was very welcome at a time when his agency is facing significant financial pressures.

“While we welcome this news, we would like to emphasize that this is a one-off funding and must be supported by adequate funding for national parks in the medium and long term,” he said.

The 10 National Parks, each receiving £440,000, are: the Broads, comprising the rivers and lochs of Norfolk and Suffolk; Dartmoor and Exmoor in South West England; the Lake District; the New Forest in Hampshire and Wiltshire; the North York Moors; Northumberland; the Peak District; the South Downs; and the Yorkshire Dales.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “Our national parks are the jewel of our cherished landscapes. They support thriving communities, economies, wildlife and are important sites for public health and well-being. This additional £4.4million in funding will support the important work being done by national park authorities in our landscape and allow locals and visitors to enjoy these popular sites.”

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