The government’s decision to cut funding for the UK’s National Parks has left park bosses, local businesses and ramblers perplexed. The funding freeze could jeopardise the safety of walking trails, and the capacity to provide visitors with general services.
Funding for Britain’s National Parks was slashed in 2019 by £16 million – a 40% deficit. With the rise in maintenance costs that have affected all facets of life in 2022, National Park bosses are having to close visitor centres and reduce the number of hours allocated to park rangers.
That means the general maintenance and upkeep of Britain’s National Parks will not receive the treatment they need. There are concerns that the funding freeze will mean some parts of the park will not be accessible to visitors.
National Park Bosses Criticise Funding Freeze
The decision to cut funding has been met with criticism from the bosses of Britain’s 10 National Parks.
The BBC reports that Tony Gates, the chief executive of the Northumberland National Park says the cuts are “unnecessary” and have not been “applied fairly”.
Northumberland National Park boasts 700 miles of footpaths including Hadrian’s Wall.
It’s a similar story in the opposite corner of the country. Kevin Bishop, the chief executive of Dartmoor national park told The Guardian that the organisation is in the worst financial crisis since it was established in 1995. “We are heading towards an existential crisis,” he said.
Dartmoor national park manages 368 sq miles of rugged moorland and says it may have to abolish existing projects including the region’s biodiversity action plan, its youth rangers outreach and the possible closure of its award-winning visitor centre. Between 15 and 20 jobs are at risk.
Access to the Outdoors
The rangers that work in the National Parks say they feel demoralised by the funding freeze. They feel as though everyone has the right to enjoy the outdoors and embrace some of Britain’s most engaging landscapes. But the funding freeze could jeopardise that basic right for British citizens that pay taxes for the upkeep of the country.
The Campaign for National Parks has listed the negative impact the government’s continuing “austerity program” has had on Britain’s landscape since it began making cuts in 2009.
The restoration of damaged footpaths caused by floods and storms has not been performed. And the Rights of Way Network – which is crucial for the local economy – has been left to deteriorate resulting in a drop in tourism.
Having access to the outdoors is critical for improving your health and well-being. Some people report the outdoors saved their life after going through a rough patch.
In response to the criticism, the UK government has said it will help National Park bosses find “public funding” through the hands of private donations. Despite paying taxes for the upkeep of National Parks, the government is palming the funding of walking trails off on to British taxpayers.