South Downs National Park: 10th Anniversary

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:19 pm on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 7:19 pm, 12th January 2021

The wart-biter—it sounds horrible, actually. But the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, which he also mentioned, is very special. That is to be much valued, as is the entire landscape in the area.

The pandemic has highlighted the critical role that our national parks play in our health and wellbeing; I was really pleased that my hon. Friend Steve Brine raised that point. These landscapes have been so important for people getting out and about on their walks, and for public access. People are obviously being told to stay local right now, but these landscapes have been—and will continue in the future to be—important to our health and wellbeing. Indeed, I see the national parks playing a very important role in our new green social prescribing, which I know my hon. Friend was very involved in during his previous role in the Department of Health.

The leadership that the South Downs national park authority has shown in establishing its recovery fund of £375,000 to support local communities and businesses at this time has been really welcome, because this period has been very challenging for all the people living and working there. It has also done some very inventive and helpful things such as virtual festivals and other online work. All our national parks have joined the national effort to tackle this pandemic, and our heartfelt thanks go to all of them.

I want quickly to mention the recent landscapes review led by Julian Glover, who looked at all our protected areas, and set out his vision for the future role that national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty might play. The review highlighted the vital roles that these landscapes can play in addressing the twin challenges of nature recovery and climate change, and supporting the health and wellbeing of our communities. These issues are very much at the top of the Government’s agenda, and we agree that protected landscapes will be very important in the future. As we approach the 70th anniversary of the creation of Britain’s first four national parks, we will be looking closely at the recommendations of the Glover report, with a view to bringing forward some of them.

There are some really exciting opportunities for the South Downs going forward. My hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs has touched on some of them. Farmers working in this protected landscape will have opportunities through the new environmental land management schemes. He touched on the local nature recovery networks and we have national nature recovery networks as well—I take the points he made—but he did not mention dark skies, which I was surprised at. Did he leave something out of his speech?