BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 26 Dec '18

CPRE: National Parks should be built into curriculums, with school visit to celebrated landscapes for primary school children

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has provided a set of recommendations to an independent review of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), on how to improve access to these ‘designated’ landscapes. If implemented, the recommendations would give all children the opportunity to visit and learn about National Parks and AONBs as part of the national curriculum.

The review of England’s current network of 34 AONBs and 10 National Parks, led by journalist and writer Julian Glover, is ahead of 2019’s 70th anniversary of the creation of England’s first National Parks, for which CPRE was fundamental in shaping the legislation. The aim of the review is to look at how these iconic landscapes can continue to benefit society and continue to meet our needs in the 21st century.

Kids and Nature

In its submission, CPRE argued that access to Nature can have a profoundly positive effect on our physical health and mental wellbeing. However, research from Natural England in 2015 shows that more than a fifth (12%) of all children have no engagement with the natural word at all.

The countryside charity warns that many of these children, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and those in urban areas, are currently missing out on the benefits these beautiful places can bring due to lack of opportunity for them to access the countryside.

Currently, 93% of all visits to National Parks are made by car, yet less than half of all households in England have access to one. Poor public transport links makes access to protected landscapes near impossible for many people. CPRE therefore recommends building this access into school curriculums in order to increase the diversity of visitors and give more people opportunities to enjoy them.

Affordable and accessible

CPRE is calling for schools without easy access to National Parks and AONBs to be prioritised for transport initiatives. It also suggests that organisations should be supported to champion outreach to communities who have limited access to these places.

‘CPRE was integral to the creation of both National Parks and AONBs. Promoting and protecting our most precious landscapes was a core aim for CPRE when it was formed in 1926, just as it is today. However, it is imperative that that everybody is able to enjoy these breath-taking places, and only by introducing and promoting affordable and accessible ways to explore them, is this going to be possible for a large portion of society.

‘By introducing access opportunities at an early age, by embedding it into the school curriculum, children from all walks of life will be given the chance to fall in love with our countryside. By experiencing first-hand, the health and wellbeing benefits that access to these landscapes can bring, we can reconnect people with Nature. This review is a golden opportunity to help these magical landscapes thrive.’

EMMA MARRINGTON
Senior rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England

Affordable homes in AONB

Alongside calls for improved access, CPRE also wants to see a more holistic approach to planning in AONBs to enable more sustainable levels of development. It recommends introducing a shared framework in AONBs where there are two or more local authorities, in order to deliver a consistent approach to land use decisions.

High house prices and private rents, combined with low wages and high levels of second home ownership, have made home ownership, or finding an appropriate home to rent, difficult for many young families and first-time buyers in these areas.

As part of its submission, CPRE is also calling for any new housing development in National Parks and AONBs to focus on meeting identified need for genuinely affordable homes to support local communities.