Chair and Deputy Chair elected to lead National Parks England

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Media Release for immediate issue

15 June 2023

Chair and Deputy Chair elected to lead National Parks England

Neil Heseltine, Malhamdale farmer and Chair of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, has been elected Chair of National Parks England (NPE).

Neil was elected for the role by the Chairs of eight National Parks across England at NPEs Annual General Meeting. This key appointment comes as National Parks face significant financial pressure as a consequence of the real terms reduction in the Defra core grant, with cuts to staff and services across a number of National Parks already a reality. This also falls at a time when National Parks are realising ambitious plans to deliver on Government targets for nature, climate and public access.

The AGM also saw the election of Vanessa Rowlands (Chair of South Downs National Park Authority), Parish Councillor with Cuckmere Valley and keen environmentalist, as the Deputy Chair.

Neil, who works his family’s farm in Malhamdale, is a strong advocate for sustainable farming practices. He recently appeared on David Attenborough’s acclaimed ‘Saving Our Wild Isles’ documentary expressing his view that a successful farm business can work with nature not against it, and that farming within natural processes is important for the health and welfare of livestock, the environment, and biodiversity.

Neil said: “I am proud to Chair National Parks England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority at a time when there is so much to do to improve outcomes for climate and nature. This is one of the biggest challenges we face in our lives right now.

“As National Parks, we should strive to be role models for nature and climate, so as people spend time in these landscapes they leave inspired to do whatever they can to support climate and nature recovery.

“So I’m looking forward to working with colleagues, partners and others as we continue to deliver the vitally important climate, nature, and public access and engagement projects in National Parks across the country, and as we press Government hard to provide National Parks with the resources we so desperately need to achieve the ambitions we have for our treasured landscapes.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to my predecessor as National Parks England Chair, Andrew McCloy. Andrew’s steadfast commitment has led the organisation through a challenging time - in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, and as we tackle our nature and climate emergencies. Andrew has consistently championed the pivotal role that National Parks play for nature, climate and people.”

Neil will continue in his current role as Chair of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The Chair and Deputy Chair are key strategic roles, guiding National Parks England’s priorities and aspirations, maintaining political links, and supporting National Park Authorities’ work in partnership with local communities, landowners and a range of other organisations and interest groups, including thousands of volunteers, to look after these special places for everyone.



Notes to editors

For further information please email:

For interview requests please contact:
Lucy Hooper (Communications Officer, NPE)

About National Parks England

National Parks England brings together eight English National Park Authorities to provide a strong, collective and expert voice at a national level. We shape policy by drawing on our extensive experience, facilitating discussion, sharing knowledge, cultivating partnerships, and testing innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing society.

For more information on National Parks England’s work see:

For more information on the UK’s fifteen National Parks please visit: