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Environmental charities call for Government not to undermine National Parks with careless words

27 September 2018

An open letter from 19 organisations calls for strong messages from Government to avoid undermining designated landscapes. The letter which was co-ordinated by Campaign for National Parks and supported by charities including Campaign to Protect Rural England and the National Trust, takes particular issue with the use of a controversial mine to justify further development in areas that are protected for their wildlife, beauty and recreational opportunities. 

Minister for Business and Industry, Richard Harrington MP, used the example of the Woodsmith Mine in the North York Moors National Park while giving evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee over the summer. The coalition of charities is concerned that the Minister’s evidence did not accurately reflect the negative environmental and landscape impacts of inappropriate development, such as the Woodsmith Mine.  

The letter states: 'Implying that such development has no negative impacts is particularly disappointing at a time when designated landscapes are getting a lot of positive coverage following the launch of the Glover Review of England’s designated landscapes in May. It is also inconsistent with the messages in the 25 Year Environment Plan, which was launched by the Prime Minister in January.'

The BEIS committee was considering a proposed new planning policy for new nuclear disposal infrastructure and their report concluded that designated landscapes should not be ruled out as possible locations, putting at risk National Parks. 

'The positive words about National Parks from the Environment Secretary and the Prime Minister need to be backed up by the actions and decisions of all government departments. National Parks currently face a range of threats - from nuclear disposal to road-building - so it is more important than ever that ministers are united in their support for these incredible landscapes' said Ruth Bradshaw of Campaign for National Parks. 

Emma Marrington of the Campaign to Protect Rural England also commented: 'The Government’s commitment to conserve and enhance our most cherished landscapes mark a fantastic moment in history, but we need all ministers singing from the same hymn sheet.

'All designated landscapes, including National Parks, must continue to receive the highest level of protection if future generations are to have the same opportunities to enjoy their beauty and character as we do.'

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

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The full letter and list of supporters can be found below:

27 September 2018

Dear Mr Harrington,

Please do not undermine the protections for designated landscapes

We are writing to express our deep concern about the comments you made to the BEIS Select Committee on 10 July. We believe the evidence you gave to the committee risks undermining the long-established protections against damaging major development in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). We are particularly worried by your use of the example of the polyhalite mine in the North York Moors to argue for the adoption of a national policy statement on geological disposal infrastructure which fails to take account of the additional protections in designated landscapes. The approval of one inappropriate development should not be used to justify further damage to areas which are protected for the nation for their wildlife, natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

When granting approval for the Woodsmith Mine (as it is now known) in 2015, members of the North York Moors National Park Authority chose to prioritise the potential economic benefits of the project over the environmental impacts. But it was clear from the officers’ report that the proposal would do significant harm to the National Park’s special qualities and this is now proving to be the case. Even before full construction activity has begun, peaceful agricultural land has been transformed into a large industrial complex. The construction traffic and light pollution associated with the site are already reported to be having a major impact in an area that was previously valued for its tranquillity and dark skies. Far from leaving 'very little blot on the landscape' as you suggested in your evidence, the development will continue to have a significant visual impact for many years to come, even if the proposed new planting is fully successful. 

Implying that such development has no negative impacts is particularly disappointing at a time when designated landscapes are getting a lot of positive coverage following the launch of the Glover Review in May. It is also inconsistent with the messages in the 25 Year Environment Plan, which was launched by the Prime Minister in January 2018, and describes the creation of designated landscapes as one of the 'outstanding environmental achievements of the past 100 years.' Next year is the 70th anniversary of the legislation which led to the designation of these stunning landscapes but we will have little to celebrate if key elements of their protection have been completely undermined.

With increasing demand for land for a range of different uses, it is more important than ever to have places where people can escape from the stresses of modern life.  260 million people visit the English National Parks and AONBs annually, most of whom are specifically drawn to the high quality environment in these areas. These visitors spend over £6 billion annually and support thousands of jobs and businesses. National Parks and AONBs are living, working landscapes which have adapted over time to changes in society and the economy. We recognise that safe disposal of nuclear waste is one of the key challenges our society currently faces but this should not be used as an excuse to put at risk the huge range of benefits these areas deliver for society, the environment and the economy. 

Supported by the following 19 organisations:

Brecon Beacons Park Society
British Mountaineering Council
Broads Society
Campaign for National Parks
Campaign to Protect Rural England 
Cymdeithas Eryri Snowdonia Society 
Dartmoor Preservation Association
Exmoor Society
Friends of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Friends of the Dales 
Friends of the Lake District
Friends of the Peak District
Friends of the South Downs
National Trust
New Forest Association
North Yorkshire Moors Association
Open Spaces Society
Scottish Campaign for National Parks
Woodland Trust

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