Love it or hate it there is no doubt that Brexit will continue to dominate the news in 2018. And whilst it’s completely acceptable for you to use the hills, moors and mountains to escape from the headlines, it’s important to remember that the future of England’s national parks depends on the outcome.
Most of the landscapes in our national parks look the way they do because they have been farmed – from extensive grazing on moors, heaths and mountains to the more intensive arable farming familiar in the South Downs. The way that farmers own and manage the land is influenced by the subsidies that they receive from the EU through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which, in turn, directly influences the delivery of national park purposes.
As well as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the majority of the laws and regulations that care for our environment come from the EU. Michael Gove’s speech at the recent Oxford Farming Conference gave some indications of how the Government plans to reform these over the next few years.
National Parks England (NPE), the body who provide a collective voice for the views of the English National Park Authorities, has been working to identify how more environmental, and other, benefits could be achieved from the same money once we have left the EU.
NPE have outlined key points that will be of particular importance for National Parks through the Brexit process:
• The development of a new body of environmental law,
regulation and guidance that is positive in its approach,
guided by overarching principles and clearly and
• The combined effect of this new body of environmental law,
the 25 Year Plan for the Environment and any future
agriculture legislation should be greater than the sum of their
parts: restoring, protecting and maintaining resilient
ecosystems (and the habitats and species they support) and
enhancing the landscapes that provide the many public
benefits we enjoy and rely on.
• These two points will be vital if we are to be that much
promised ‘first generation to leave the environment in a
better state than we inherited it’ and safeguard the future of
the cultural heritage, landscapes and wildlife of our national
Meanwhile here in the South Downs the National Park Authority is continuing work with local farmers and landowners to develop ideas for pilot schemes that could deliver much more for people and the environment than the current scheme of payments. With many of our farmers already working together for the environment in ‘clusters’ we believe that there is a better way to see these custodians of the countryside rewarded for delivering public goods such as clean water, homes for wildlife and better access. Watch this space.