Sweeping reforms to save beautiful Britain

THE BIGGEST countryside reform for half a century will see the creation of at least one new National Park and special protection afforded to 37 of the most beautiful parts of Britain, under new government plans.

The proposals, which will be unveiled to mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of the National Park system, will mean that one quarter of England's land mass will be safeguarded against insensitive development and "opened up to the people". Ministers see this move - with the "right to roam" measures announced 10 days ago - as completing the "unfinished business" of the post-war Attlee government.

The Labour administration laid out plans in 1945 for protecting beautiful countryside, and guaranteeing access to it, but it failed to fully implement them. The current in- tention is to ensure that the Blair government leaves as permanent a mark on the landscape as its illustrious predecessor.

Last week the Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, revealed at a conference organised by UNED-UK, a United Nations support group, that he had "exciting" plans to mark the 50th anniversary of National Parks. Tony Burton, assistant director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, said that the scheme, once implemented, would mark "the kind of initiative that comes once in a generation".

The plans, which are closely based on recommendations by the Countryside Commission, the government's official landscape advisers in England, would turn the New Forest into a National Park and enormously strengthen England's 37 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The AONBs - which include the Cotswolds, the Forest of Bowland, the Isles of Scilly, the Chilterns, the Sussex Downs, Kent's High Weald, Dedham Vale in East Anglia, and the Mendips, Quantock and Malvern Hills - have long been the Cinderellas of conservation.

They are officially recognised to be as beautiful, if often less wild than the National Parks, and are spread much more evenly around the country. They are supposed to have some protection, but in practice have been far more prey to development and intensive agriculture than the parks. They have not had the resources to promote conservation and cater properly for walkers and other visitors.

Large parts of some AONBs - such as the Sussex Downs and the North Wessex Downs - have been ploughed up and ruined over the past decades. Others are coming under pressure from development - massive holiday villages in the Wiltshire Downs and High Weald, plans for a dual carriageway through Devon's Blackdown Hills, and the erection of a mobile phone mast over Dedham Vale.

The new plans would make such destruction harder by making the AONBs National Parks in all but name.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power