National Parks 'could be expanded' as part of Government review, Michael Gove announces

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The country's treasured national parks could be expanded, as part of a Government review announced today.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said he wants to "conserve and enhance" England’s 10 National Parks and 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) for future generations.

Yorkshire boasts two National Parks with the Peak District - which crosses through parts of West and South Yorkshire and the cherished North York Moors.

A public consultation is also being launched as part of the review, asking for views on how the landscapes could be enhanced, protected or expanded.

Mr Gove said: “For so many of us our love for nature is intrinsically linked with our protected landscapes, from holidays spent in National Parks to weekend rambles across our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“We want to ensure the people who live, work in and visit these cherished places have a say in their future. As we look afresh at these precious landscapes, I look forward to hearing from everyone who shares an interest in conserving and enhancing them for the next generation.”

The review is also looking at how access can be improved and how communities living in National Parks or AONBs can be better supported.

The public will also have input on housing and transport in protected landscapes, the role they play in cultural heritage, as well as potentially improving habitats for wildlife.

It is being launched in partnership with writer Julian Glover, and includes an advisory panel that is now considering the case for expanding national parks.

Weakening or undermining the existing protections or geographic scope is not part of this review, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

Margaret Paren, chairwoman of National Parks England, said: “Our protected landscapes are special and worthy of celebration. We are keen to ensure their beauty is enhanced; they are loved by and accessible for everyone; and that they continue to support thriving communities.

“But what of the future? Big challenges exist and people have different views about how they should look, feel and be managed. We all want our national parks to be the best they can be and to continue to benefit society in a rich variety of ways. We hope lots of people will respond to this call for evidence and the opportunity it presents to secure our best landscapes for the future.”

The nation’s 34 AONBs and 10 National Parks cover a quarter of England’s land and are home to more than 2.3m people. They also generate more than £20bn for the rural economy, and support 75,000 jobs.

The call for evidence closes on 18 December.

To get involved in the consultation, visit: www.consult.defra.gov.uk/land-use/landscapes-review-call-for-evidence