Campaigners fear Chancellor George Osborne is preparing further cuts in national park funding. Photo: M Holland

Campaigners fear Chancellor George Osborne is preparing further cuts in national park funding. Photo: M Holland

Government cuts to national park funding over the past five years have led to the loss of hundreds of jobs and led to a major reductions in services to visitors and residents.

The Campaign for National Parks, which compiled the information from freedom of information requests, said it fears further cuts will threaten the fabric of what it called ‘national assets’.

England’s national park authorities have faced cash reductions of about 40 per cent under the last government, and the campaigning charity said it fears Chancellor George Osborne is preparing further cuts to the 10 areas’ allowances as he prepares his Budget.

The CNP said, although national parks are legally required to set a balanced budget, there is deep concern that future reductions over the next five years to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ unprotected budget could mean further cuts might be on the way as part of the Budget on 8 July.

Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks chief executive, said the effects of the cuts meant most national park authorities had already had to make substantial cuts to the services they provide and that any future cuts would have a severe impact on local communities and the management of these national assets.

She said: “Funding available for public transport programmes, that get people out into and around our parks, have been cut; information centres are closing down or shortening their opening hours; public rights of way are not being maintained and grants for rural businesses – the lifeblood of the community – are being cut.

England's national parks need proper funding the CNP said

England's national parks need proper funding the CNP said

“National park authorities should be spending time promoting our national parks as our most treasured jewels in the crown and not having to look over their shoulder and deal with damaging, piecemeal year-on-year cuts.

“We know the national park authorities are being proactive and trying to be creative about accessing new funding streams, but national parks are nationally important assets. They need to be properly valued by the Government and supported financially to make sure they are able to continue to deliver important environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits to both local communities and the nation.”

The Campaign for National Parks put in freedom of information requests to all 10 English authorities. The responses revealed that 225 jobs have been lost over the past five years.

The charity said the cuts mean that National Park Authorities in England received £44.7m for 2015-6 compared with £56m in 2010-11. Based on an English population of 53.5 millions, national parks cost the English taxpayer just 83.5p per year, it said.

Project and programmes that have had to stop include:

  • Dartmoor National Park Authority has terminated its One Planet Dartmoor, the Sustainable Development Fund and its Action for Wildlife Initiative, which covered climate change, biodiversity and grants for local communities
  • Northumberland National Park Authority has stopped its climate change and apprenticeship programmes; closed its sustainable business support and two of its three visitor centres
  • Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has ended its events, branding, geodiversity, climate change, education and public transport programmes and stopped its definitive map – rights of way – designations
  • North York Moors National Park Authority has stopped its flood prevention work, work on green lanes, climate change mitigation and adaptation work and managing its definitive map
  • The Broads Authority has closed three of its six tourist information centres and withdrawn from virtually all rights of way maintenance.

The CNP said the announcement by George Osborne on 4 June 2015 to find £3bn in savings from government departments in the current financial year will mean that Defra will have to make further savings. It has been reported that Defra has agreed to a budget cut of £83m this year. This is ahead of a deeper cuts programme to be announced in the Budget on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “The Campaign for National Parks is concerned about the scale and speed of the cuts.

Campaign for National Parks chief executive Fiona Howie

Campaign for National Parks chief executive Fiona Howie

“We believe that the national parks are important national assets and they should be properly valued by the Government and supported financially. National parks need to be able to access a fair share of resources if they are to deliver their purposes of pursuing the economic and social wellbeing of communities alongside environmental management.”

It pointed out all the national park authorities have been working with their Welsh and Scottish counterparts to create a new company, National Parks Partnerships Ltd, devoted to identifying commercial opportunities following a similar successful initiative in the United States. This builds on sponsorship deals brokered with Airwick and US footwear company Merrell.

The CNP said: “Not only are jobs being lost, but projects are being pared back and hundreds of miles of rights of way will no longer be maintained in the future.

“The Campaign for National Parks is concerned that already too many people are not able to access our national parks. Over time, with funds that previously supported innovative approaches to public transport and local businesses being closed, as well as less money being invested in conservation work, the negative effect on visitors, local tourism, wildlife and rural businesses will continue to grow.

“We are calling on the Westminster Government to effectively resource national parks, while also enabling them to take innovative approaches to access new or existing funding streams.

“National parks are national assets that provide environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits. They are valued by communities and tourists and they need to be properly valued and supported by the Government.”

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