National Parks cover almost 10% of England. They contain stunning landscapes, are home to important wildlife and are rich in cultural heritage. Thousands of people live within the National Parks and care for them on a daily basis, whilst the Parks continue to be a huge draw for millions of people seeking enjoyment, adventure, inspiration or sheer relaxation. The National Park Management Plan is the place where all the differing needs and aspirations for these areas come together.
Under Section 66(1) of the Environment Act 1995, it is the National Park Authority that adopts the National Park Management Plan. But this hides the hugely important contribution of others – whether local communities, or communities of interest who shape the Plans. Indeed, in many cases it will be others, not the National Park Authority that will be leading on the actions in the Plan. And that is as it should be – these are shared plans.
A central role for the National Park Management Plan is to guide the delivery of the National Park purposes and the socio-economic duty on NPAs.
The National Park Management Plan helps shape the planning policies adopted within the National Park, whilst neighbouring Local Planning Authorities need to 'have regard' to it when adopting their own planning policies. Guidance accompanying the Government's National Planning Policy Framework explains that the National Park Management Plan does not itself form part of the statutory development plan that guides development for an area. They should, however, be 'taken into account in the local planning authorities' Local Plans and any neighbouring plans in these areas'. The National Park Management Plans 'may also be material considerations in making decisions on individual planning applications'.
There is no one rigid process for reviewing and preparing a NPMP, and the National Park Authority will tend to choose an approach that works best for the circumstances of their area and communities. The Government's statutory advisors, Natural England, have prepared Guidance for NPAs to assist them in how Plans are reviewed. This sets out a 9 step process.
Rather than a linear process, this is in fact cyclical, with the NPA and its partners using the review of the Plan to inform the preparation of the next Plan. During the life time of the Plan, the NPA and its partners will monitor and review progress. This may lead to adjustments being made to the Plan or its delivery, prior to the next more fundamental review.
The preparation of any National Park Management Plan will be the product of drawing on and considering local and national priorities, from a wide range of people and organisations and topics. Involving people in the process is key to ensure the Plan reflects what people want. Gathering local information or evidence on current conditions within the National Park – for example by using the data contained in State of the Park reports, helps inform decisions.
There are also national priorities that the NPA will need to take into account. These include, for example:
Because the preparation of the Plan involves a combination of national and local priorities – and is responding to the circumstances of the particular National Park in question, the National Park Management Plans can look quite different. Critical to its success, however, is the way multiple objectives are integrated into the future management of the National Park.
National Park Management Plans are many things, but they are not:
The preparation of the Local Plan and NPA Corporate Plans will be heavily influenced by the National Park Management Plan, but they perform slightly different functions.