Defra announces £15m investment in protected landscapes

Government pledges to champion the environment in the run up to the COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai.

Yorkshire countryside
Photo by Martin Sepion on Unsplash

The Government sets out ambitious new nature package, with measures to improve access to green space and connect the public with the natural world.

Unveiled by the new Environment Secretary Steve Barclay today, the plan sets out to invest £15m in National Landscapes. The new package of measures includes launching a search for a new National Park, 34 new landscape recovery projects, new forests and funding to help more children get outdoors and into the great British countryside. At the COP15 Biodiversity Summit in December 2022, the government pledged to halt and reverse the decline in species abundance and to protect 30 per cent of land and nature by 2030. Today’s announcement of protected landscapes (National Parks and National Landscapes) cover nearly a quarter of England’s land area.

The search for the new park is to begin in the New Year and will be focused on England’s most beautiful nature spots, alongside the area’s ability to connect people with nature.

The 34 new Landscape Recovery projects across England will cover over 200,000 hectares of land, including woodlands, rainforests and sustainable food production, building on the 22 Landscape Recovery projects already underway which aim to restore over 600km of rivers and protect and provide habitats for at least 263 species. These projects are part of the Government’s new farming schemes, helping farmers produce food alongside environmental benefits whilst accessing green finance opportunities.

Funding of £2.5m will be designated to helping children experience the benefits of the great outdoors, £750,000 for the protection of temperate rainforests in Cornwall, Devon, and Cumbria, and highlighted previously announced plans to launch a competition for a new National Forest and establish two Community Forests in Derbyshire and the Tees Valley.

The government has also made a further £5 million available this year which Protected Landscapes can apply for to improve the water environment of these special places

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I shared in the nation’s profound sense of anger in response to what happened at the Sycamore Gap earlier this year, but the public’s outrage fundamentally demonstrated just how much love the British people have for the natural world.

From Yorkshire’s historic rolling moors to ancient rainforest on the Cornish coast, we are home to many globally significant landscapes. We must do all it takes to protect these much-loved spaces and ensure that love for the natural world continues into the next generations.

As I head to COP28, we are reasserting the UK’s leading role in promoting our iconic landscapes and keeping nature at the centre of our action to tackle climate change.”

The National Landscapes Association welcomed the announcement, recognising “the immense value of protected landscapes, and the announcement of the search for a new National Park. This, coupled with the slated boundary extensions to the already designated Surrey Hills and Chilterns, and the planned designation of two new National Landscapes: Cheshire Sandstone Ridge and the Yorkshire Wolds, is a powerful endorsement of the impact of protected landscapes in meeting the challenges ahead, as long as this means the total extent of land area legally protected for natural beauty increases in the UK”.

Tony Juniper Chair of Natural England said: “Having more well connected and wildlife-rich habitats is a central priority for meeting our Nature recovery ambitions. This includes enhancing landscapes, helping more species thrive, improving climate adaptation and wellbeing for people. As we look ahead to COP28 it is timely to set out practical actions that reflect the deep connections between Nature and climate change. The wide-ranging measures announced today mark a positive step forward and we look forward to supporting the government in delivering them”.