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Protected landscapes: an overview

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Environmental goods, Things we're doing
Farming on Dartmoor ©

You might remember that in the Agricultural Transition Plan, we mentioned that we would introduce a Farming in Protected Landscapes programme.

We’re preparing to release more information about that programme in the coming weeks, but before then, I wanted to share a few reasons why protected landscapes are so important.

National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are special and unique. Together they make up some of our most beautiful and iconic protected landscapes.

In England, there are 10 National Parks and 34 AONB. Together, they cover nearly 25% of land in England. Natural England's map shows their size and location across England.

These places, designated in statute for their natural beauty, are also home to some of our most important species.

These areas make up an important part of the government’s commitment to protect 30% of land by 2030 so that they continue to be havens for nature and places that everyone can visit and enjoy.

Reducing carbon emissions

National Parks and AONB play an important role in the current fight against the rise of global carbon emissions. These places are home to some of our most important species, around 60% of England’s remaining deep peat, and over 50% of our Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), making them vital to nature recovery and nature-based solutions to climate change.

A huge 119 megatons of carbon is stored within the peat soils of the English National Parks which is the equivalent of the annual emissions of England.

The rural economy

Protected landscapes do much to support local rural communities, helping to support jobs and investment. National Parks attract 94 million visitors per year, directly supporting 75,000 jobs whilst combined, the National Parks and AONBs attract over 260 million visitors a year.


Protected landscapes range from lowland landscapes, such as the Cotswolds and the Norfolk Coast, to uplands such as the North Pennines and the Lake District.

By having such a wide geographical range, they also contain a wide range of species that are important for nature and nature recovery. Within the National Parks of England are contained 41% of upland hay meadows and 80% of upland chalk grassland. These places are also home to an array of wildlife from red squirrels to the Bilberry bumblebee.


Protected Landscapes have an important role to play in our health and wellbeing. Around 64% of England’s population lives within 15 miles of a National Park or AONB and they’re great places to walk and cycle.

Stay up-to-date

As I mentioned, we’ll be sharing our plans to support farming in protected landscapes in the coming weeks, so do subscribe to the blog for further updates.

The Landscape Review sets out a compelling vision for more beautiful, more biodiverse and more accessible National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which the government will respond to soon.

Finally, don’t forget to sign up to Defra’s e-alerts if you haven't already. 



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  1. Comment by Andrew Newman posted on

  2. Comment by Hallam Mills posted on

    Magic's good except there are mistakes on some CROW designations.

  3. Comment by A Rothwell posted on

    By restricting this support to National Parks and AONB’s, you miss out the upland areas in the North, which come under immense pressures from the urban areas in Manchester and other Northern cities and towns.
    The Pennine hills do not, to a great extent, have statutory designation, but act as a recreational area for urban dwellers, with arguably more pressure than say, the Lake District or Peak District, which have statutory protection and dedicated teams of rangers, volunteers and the backing of legal protection.
    You also risk creating a “two tier” uplands system with those in the Parks and AONB’s given a significant advantage over other upland farmers, subject to the same business pressures, but without the ability to diversify into tourism.

  4. Comment by Helen Rhodes posted on

    As a farmer on the urban fringe, I would urge you to consider this from a different angle.

    Which landscapes are subject to the greatest year-round population pressure?

    Which landscapes have the greatest capacity to influence and effect more people on a daily basis?

    So, 64% of the population are within 15miles of a protected landscape, how many of those 64% actually utilise those landscapes as opposed to the farmland on their doorsteps? I would argue that over my 300Ha with 25+km of mature hedge and tracts of environmental options I have a greater impact on people's day to day wellbeing, yet we get zero support with regard managing public access, even going through phases where we may be fined for not preventing access whilst at the same time the government is promoting access to the public without any clarity at to the limitations of said access.

    The very fact that defra/government is now labelling National Parks and AONB's "protected landscapes", announces to the public that, by implication, all other landscapes are not protected. This is effectively creating a two-tier perception of the importance of land, telling people that the places where you go on holiday are special (protected) whereas the places where you walk your dogs everyday don't have any protection, reinforcing peoples' opinion that they have a 'right to roam' across all farmland, making it increasingly difficult to protect biodiversity, and thus defeating what you are trying to achieve.

    Happy to discuss!

  5. Comment by Ian May posted on

    Is there any scope to include the UK Man and Biosphere Reserves in the list of areas to be focused on under protected landscapes? MAB sites have been recognised internationally by UNESCO for their importance both environmentally and culturally and I would think they would fit well into this category.

    Best regards



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