National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which created the National Parks Commission which later became the Countryside Commission and then the Countryside Agency, which became Natural England when it merged with English Nature in 2006. The Act provided the framework for the creation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, and also addressed public rights of way and access to open land. The Act was passed in 1949 with all-party support, as part of the reconstruction of the UK by the Labour government after World War II.

The Act followed reports by:

  • a Government committee chaired by Christopher Addison (later Viscount Addison) in 1931,
  • John Dower, secretary of the Standing Committee on National Parks, to the Minister of Town and Country Planning in 1945, and
  • a Government committee chaired by Sir Arthur Hobhouse in 1947, which proposed 12 national parks.

The first 10 British national parks were designated as such in the 1950s under the Act in mostly poor-quality agricultural upland. An eleventh 'national park' in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads was set up by a special Act of Parliament, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act, in 1988 (strictly speaking, this is not a national park, but the differences are sufficiently small that this entity is always regarded as being "equivalent to" a national park). The New Forest was designated a national park on 1 March 2005. The South Downs, the last of the 12 areas chosen in the 1947 Hobhouse Report, was designated as South Downs National Park by then-Secretary of State Hilary Benn in March 2009.

The structure set up by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 was amended by:

Further amendments are made by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, under which English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service merged on 1 October 2006 to form new bodies called Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities.

National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to make provision for National Parks and the establishment of a National Parks Commission ; to confer on the Nature Conservancy and local authorities powers for the establishment and maintenance of nature reserves ; to make further provision for the recording, creation, maintenance and improvement of public paths and for securing access to open country, and to amend the law relating to rights of way; to confer further powers for preserving and enhancing natural beauty ; and for matters connected with the purposes aforesaid.
Citation1949 c 97
Introduced bySir Arthur Hobhouse
Territorial extentEngland, Scotland and Wales
Dates
Royal assent16 December 1949
Other legislation
Amended byThe Natural Resources Body for Wales (Functions) Order 2013 (portion)
Relates to
Status: Amended
History of passage through Parliament
Records of Parliamentary debate relating to the statute from Hansard, at TheyWorkForYou
Records of Parliamentary debate relating to the statute from hansard.millbanksystems.com
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk.

See also

External links

Byways and Bridleways Trust

The Byways and Bridleways Trust (BBT) is a charity (registered number 280214 in 1980) which exists to protect bridleways and byways in England and Wales.

It is a prescribed consultee for proposed changes or effects on public rights of way (minor highways) made under the Highways Act 1980, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Town and Country Planning Act 1990. As such, the Trust responds to consultations from government, government agencies, local authorities and potential applicants for planning permission and changes to public rights of way. The Trust takes the opportunity where presented to respond to Parliamentary calls for evidence such as on the Marine Bill

The Trust's aim is:

To protect, preserve, maintain, secure, improve and develop public rights of way for the benefit of the public at large, so that the conditions of life may be improved, in particular by taking steps to ensure high standards of surveying and recording on definitive maps and any other public records of public rights of way over byways open to all traffic, roads used as public paths, unmetalled carriageways, green lanes, drove roads, driftways and bridleways in England and Wales.

The Definitive Map and Statement is the legally conclusive record of public rights of way maintained by highway authorities as required by Section 27 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 958 square kilometres (370 sq mi) in Cornwall, England, UK; that is, about 27% of the total area of the county. It comprises 12 separate areas, designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 for special landscape protection. Of the areas, eleven cover stretches of coastline; the twelfth is Bodmin Moor. The areas are together treated as a single Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Section 85 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 places a duty on all relevant authorities when discharging any function affecting land within an AONB to have regard to the purpose of conserving and enhancing natural beauty. Section 89 places a statutory duty on Local Planning Authorities with an AONB within their administrative area to produce a 5-year management plan.

Countryside Commission

The Countryside Commission (formally the Countryside Commission for England and Wales, then the Countryside Commission for England) was a statutory body in England and Wales, and later in England only. Its forerunner, the National Parks Commission, was established in 1949 by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 to co-ordinate government activity in relation to National Parks.This body became the Countryside Commission for England and Wales in 1968, when its duties were expanded to cover the countryside as a whole in England and Wales (a separate Countryside Commission for Scotland covered Scotland).

In 1991 the Welsh part of the organisation was split off and amalgamated with the equivalent part of the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) to become the Countryside Council for Wales. The rest of the organisation became the Countryside Commission for England – for the moment it remained separate from English Nature, as the English part of the NCC became.

The Countryside Commission ceased to exist in 1999 when it was merged with the Rural Development Commission to form the Countryside Agency. This has in turn evolved into Natural England, partly by eventual merger with English Nature.

English Nature

English Nature was the United Kingdom government agency that promoted the conservation of wildlife, geology and wild places throughout England between 1990 and 2006. It was a non-departmental public body funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and gave statutory advice, grants and issued licences.

The Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) (formerly the Nature Conservancy) was established by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 to cover nature conservation issues across the whole of Great Britain. The NCC was split into four by the Environmental Protection Act 1990—its English duties being given to English Nature. In Scotland, its functions were merged with those of the Countryside Commission for Scotland to form Scottish Natural Heritage, and similarly in Wales there was a merger to form the Countryside Council for Wales. A much smaller body, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), supported all three agencies. The English functions of the Countryside Commission went to the newly formed Countryside Agency.

English Nature worked closely with the JNCC and the equivalent bodies for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (the Northern Ireland Environment Agency) to bring a consistent approach to nature conservation throughout the United Kingdom and towards fulfilling its international obligations.

The agency ceased to exist in October 2006 following a review by Lord Haskins, enacted in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. It was integrated with parts of both the Rural Development Service and the Countryside Agency from 1 October 2006, to form a new body called Natural England.

High Weald Landscape Trail

The High Weald Landscape Trail (HWLT) is a 145-kilometre (90 mi) route in England between Horsham, West Sussex and Rye, East Sussex, designed to pass through the main landscape types of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It does not follow the highest ground, and the eastern section is only a few feet above sea level. It keeps to the northern edge of the High Weald except in the west where it runs close to the southern edge for a short distance.

The HWLT is not a National Trail within the meaning of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, but a trail of regional importance supported by the High Weald Forum and local authorities in East and West Sussex, and Kent. The route is well signposted except a few places, and is marked on the Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps 134, 135, 136 and 125. It follows public rights of way and roads with the occasional permissive path.

The geology is alternating sandstones and clays, and the latter can be very muddy in wet conditions so boots are a must except in very dry weather. Some sections become very overgrown in summer with nettles and brambles so shorts are not advisable.

The official description of the route, and the landscapes it passes through, are described an online guide available from the High Weald AONB website (see external links) which was updated in 2013. The original guide, "Along and Around the High Weald Landscape Trail"., is long out of print.

Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management

The Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management (IPROW) is an independent society representing individuals involved in the management of public rights of way and other access in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its members are principally local government officers, some are employees in a private company performing the contracted-out rights of way function, and a minority are self-employed specialists, lawyers or performing associated work in private, public or third sectors.

Rights of way in England and Wales are the minor highways — public footpaths, bridleways and byways — which are recorded by surveying authorities (usually county councils or unitary authorities) on Definitive Maps and Statements of public rights of way, as prescribed in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

Depending on the size of the highway authority, rights of way officers may be involved in any or all of the duties to maintain the legal record, assert the public right and maintain the ways so they are usable. Large authorities may have several officers, each specialising in one duty or another, smaller authorities may have officers each dealing with all duties in an area, which in a small authority may be the whole of its area.

John Gordon Dower

John Gordon Dower (2 September 1900 – 3 October 1947) was a civil servant and architect, who, as secretary of the Standing Committee on National Parks, produced in 1945 the first post-war official report which set out what National Parks in England and Wales should be like:

An extensive area of beautiful and relatively wild country in which, for the nation’s benefit and by appropriate national decision and action, (a) the characteristic landscape beauty is strictly preserved, (b) access and facilities for public open-air enjoyment are amply provided, (c) wild-life and buildings and places of architectural and historical interest are suitably protected, while (d) established farming use is effectively maintained.This report, and a subsequent one by Sir Arthur Hobhouse, laid the foundations for the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 which created the National Park system.

List of Local Nature Reserves in Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire is a county in south-east England. Its county town is Aylesbury, and it is surrounded by Northamptonshire to the north, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Greater London to the east, Surrey and Berkshire to the south, and Oxfordshire to the west. Under Buckinghamshire County Council there are four districts, Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe, while Milton Keynes has a separate unitary borough council. Buckinghamshire has an area of 1874 km², and a population of 739,600.Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are designated by local authorities under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The local authority must have a legal control over the site, by owning or leasing it or having an agreement with the owner. LNRs are sites which have a special local interest either biologically or geologically, and local authorities have a duty to care for them. They can apply local bye-laws to manage and protect LNRs.As of July 2016 there are sixteen LNRs in Buckinghamshire. Four are in Aylesbury Vale, one each in Chiltern and Milton Keynes, three in South Bucks and seven in Wycombe. Two sites are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest and four are in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The largest is Black Park LNR with 65.8 hectares. This is part of the 250 hectare Black Park Country Park and the forty-three square mile Colne Valley regional park. The smallest site is the 0.5 hectare Coombs Quarry, which has geological interest due to a Jurassic layer, and Romano-British archaeology. There is public access to all sites except Buckingham Sand Pit.

List of Local Nature Reserves in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire is an English ceremonial county consisting of the North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire unitary authorities and the non-metropolitan Lincolnshire County Council, made up of six districts (Boston, East Lindsey, North Kesteven, South Holland, South Kesteven and West Lindsey) and the City of Lincoln. The non-metropolitan county is in the East Midlands, while the two unitary authorities are part of the Yorkshire and Humber region. Bound to the south by Rutland, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire, to the south-east by Norfolk and to the west by Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire's eastern edge follows the coastline with the North Sea and the southern bank of the River Humber to the north. The county's area is the fourth largest in England, but its population, at 714,800, is only the 14th highest.

Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are designated by local authorities under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The local authority must have a legal control over the site, by owning or leasing it or having an agreement with the owner. LNRs are sites which have a special local interest either biologically or geologically, and local authorities have a duty to care for them. They can apply local bye-laws to manage and protect LNRs. As of January 2018, Lincolnshire has 32 designated Local Nature Reserves.

List of Local Nature Reserves in North Yorkshire

This is a list of Local Nature Reserves (LNR) in North Yorkshire. The list accounts for the post-1974 area of North Yorkshire, and includes the local authority areas of Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland as well as the City of York. As such, it includes areas in places such as Harrogate, that prior to 1974, were in the historic county of the West Riding of Yorkshire.Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are designated by local authorities under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The local authority must have a legal control over the site, by owning or leasing it or having an agreement with the owner. LNRs are sites which have a special local interest either biologically or geologically, and local authorities have a duty to care for them. They can apply local bye-laws to manage and protect LNRs. As of May 2018, North Yorkshire has 18 designated Local Nature Reserves.

Local nature reserve

Local nature reserve (LNR) is a designation for nature reserves in Great Britain. The designation has its origin in the recommendations of the Wild Life Conservation Special Committee which established the framework for nature conservation in the United Kingdom and suggested a national suite of protected areas comprising national nature reserves, conservation areas (which incorporated suggestions for Sites of Special Scientific Interest), national parks, geological monuments, local nature reserves and local educational nature reserves.

There are now over 1,280 LNRs in England, covering almost 40,000 hectares, which range from windswept coastal headlands and ancient woodlands to former inner city railways and long abandoned landfill sites.

Meathop Moss

Meathop Moss is a raised bog in Cumbria, England. Protected as a nature reserve by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Meathop Moss is notable for its insect life.

In 1965 it was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Along with two other raised bogs near the Kent estuary, it has been included in the Witherslack Mosses Special Area of Conservation which was designated in 2005.

National parks of England and Wales

The national parks of England and Wales are areas of relatively undeveloped and scenic landscape that are designated under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Despite their similar name, national parks in England and Wales are quite different from national parks in many other countries, which are usually owned and managed by the government as a protected community resource, and which do not usually include permanent human communities. In England and Wales, designation as a national park may include substantial settlements and human land uses which are often integral parts of the landscape, and land within a national park remains largely in private ownership.

There are currently thirteen national parks (Welsh: parciau cenedlaethol) in England and Wales. Each park is operated by its own national park authority, with two "statutory purposes":

to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area, and

to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the park's special qualities by the public.When national parks carry out these purposes they also have the duty to:

seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the national parks.An estimated 110 million people visit the national parks of England and Wales each year. Recreation and tourism bring visitors and funds into the parks, to sustain their conservation efforts and support the local population through jobs and businesses. These visitors also bring problems, such as erosion and traffic congestion, and conflicts over the use of the parks' resources. Access to cultivated land is restricted to public rights of way and permissive paths, with most (but not all) uncultivated areas in England and Wales having right of access for walking under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Norfolk Coast AONB

The Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a protected landscape in Norfolk, England. It covers over 450 km2 of coastal and agricultural land from The Wash in the west through coastal marshes and cliffs to the sand dunes at Winterton in the east. It was designated AONB in 1968, under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

The area includes; Hunstanton, Wells-next-the-Sea, Blakeney, Sheringham, Cromer and Mundesley. The AONB boundary on the seaward side is the mean low water mark, corresponding to the limit of the planning authority of its local authority partners. The terrain behind the coast is rolling chalk land and glacial moraine, including the almost 300 foot (90m) high Cromer Ridge.

Nature reserves in the area include two National Nature Reserves, Blakeney Point and the Winterton Dunes (one of the country's finest dune systems). The Heritage Coast stretch of the AONB is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a candidate Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area. The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail pass through the AONB.

Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988

The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which created the Broads Authority. It is the framework for the creation of Broads, an area qualifying for special conservation on account of its ecological value and giving the Broads equivalent status and funding to the national parks of England and Wales.The first ten British national parks were designated as such in the 1950s under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 in mostly poor-quality agricultural upland and designations subsequent to the Broads are also under the auspices of the 1949 Act. The Broads required separate legislation to give special consideration to the needs of navigation. The Act requires the Broads Authority to take account of the area's national importance and the need to protect it. It must promote public enjoyment, preserve natural amenity and maintain, improve and develop the navigation area.

Open Country

"Open Country" is a designation used for some UK access land.

It was first defined under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (and extended by the Countryside Act 1968), and was land over which an appropriate access agreement had been made. In particular significant upland areas of the northern Peak District, where there had been much dispute over access prior to World War II, were so designated (see Mass trespass of Kinder Scout).

The term is also used in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to describe 'areas of mountain, moor, heath and down' that are generally available for access under that Act. (It appears that the rights conferred by this new definition are in general less comprehensive than those conferred under the 1949 Act, but will apply to a wider area.)

The Countryside Agency's publication Managing Public Access appears to envisage that most land originally designated under the 1949 Act will in due course receive redesignation under the CRoW Act, as the original access agreements lapse.

Rights of way in England and Wales

In England and Wales, other than in the 12 Inner London Boroughs and the City of London, the "right of way" refers to paths on which the public have a legally protected right to pass and re-pass. The law in England and Wales differs from Scots law in that rights of way exist only where they are so designated (or are able to be designated if not already), whereas in Scotland any route that meets certain conditions is defined as a right of way, and in addition there is a general presumption of access to the countryside ("right to roam"). Private rights of way or easements also exist (see also Highways in England and Wales).

South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covers 337 square kilometres, including much of the South Hams area of Devon and the rugged coastline from Jennycliff to Elberry Cove near Brixham. The purpose of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is to conserve and enhance the area's natural beauty. In South Devon this includes: undeveloped coastline, estuaries, geological and geomorphological features, expansive panoramic views, ancient agricultural field pattern, Devon banks, areas of high tranquility, dark night skies and natural nightscapes, historic features, green lanes, well known cultural associations, picturesque villages and hamlets. South Devon AONB was formally designated in August 1960 under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (South Devon AONB Management Plan 2009-14). The highest point in the AONB is Blackdown Camp at 199 metres above sea level.

Towns and villages within the area include Bigbury/Burgh Island, Kingsbridge, Newton Ferrers, Battisborough Cross, Salcombe on the Kingsbridge Estuary, Slapton, Wembury, and Dartmouth and Kingswear on either side of the River Dart Estuary.

The AONB also includes several Sites of Special Scientific Interest, including two national nature reserves and four Special Areas of Conservation. It contains nationally important populations of greater horseshoe bat, cirl bunting, shore dock and great green bush cricket.

The AONB also includes a 97km section of the South West Coast Path, 10 kilometres of cliffs at Bolt Head, Bolberry Down which is one of the longest stretches of coast belonging to the National Trust and Prawle Point, the southernmost point in Devon.

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom implemented to comply with European Council Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds. In short, the act gives protection to native species (especially those at threat), controls the release of non-native species, enhances the protection of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and builds upon the rights of way rules in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The Act is split into 4 parts covering 74 sections; it also includes 17 schedules.

The legislation has strength; few amendments have been made to it, and it has acted as a foundation for later legislation to build upon. The compulsory 5 year review of schedules 5 and 8 make it dynamic in terms of the species which it protects.

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