ARCHIVE: What are National Parks?
National Parks are extensive tracts of the countryside that have been given strong protection under legislation and the planning system for the conservation and enhancement of their special qualities.
English Parks are designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 by Natural England in recognition of their natural beauty and opportunities for open-air recreation. They are created when the Secretary of State confirms the designations.
Who owns the land in National Parks?
The vast majority of land in English National Parks are privately owned but some is owned and managed by public bodies such as the Forestry Commission, the National Park Authorities, and Natural England. In addition, voluntary bodies such as the National Trust own and manage some areas. Ownership of these areas in National Parks remains unchanged as a result of designation.
Why do we have National Parks?
The two statutory purposes of the National Parks' designation are:
- To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of their areas; and
- To promote opportunities for the public understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of their areas.
If there is a conflict between the two, conservation takes precedence. National Park Authorities are responsible for carrying out these duties. Learn more about National Park Authorities.
What National Parks have been designated and when?
There are currently nine National Parks and the Broads Authority in England.
- Dartmoor (Created - 1951)
- Exmoor (Created - 1954)
- Lake District (Created - 1951)
- Northumberland (Created - 1956)
- North York Moors (Created - 1952)
- Peak District (Created - 1951)
- Yorkshire Dales (Created - 1954)
- The New Forest (Created - 1 March 2005)
- South Downs (Created - 31 March 2010)
- The Broads Authority (Established 1989) (Not a National Park Designation – See * Note Below)
* The Broads Authority was established under its own primary legislation, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988 to manage the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads in recognition of its navigation opportunities as well as conservation and recreation. The existing National Parks were designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.
Page last modified: 21 April 2010
Page published: 23 October 2008