National Park Authority purposes

Haytor sunset

What are the National Park purposes and duty?

The Management Plan takes forward national policies, where relevant, to the National Park purposes and duty. It provides the strategic context to more specific plans, such as the Dartmoor National Park Authority Local Plan, and other topic or area specific plans and strategies that will help deliver the Ambitions and Priorities of this Management Plan.

Dartmoor National Park was established in 1951 under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The purposes of National Park designation are enshrined in national legislation. First set out in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, and amended by the Environment Act 1995, the two statutory purposes of National Park designation are:

  1. to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and
  2. to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area by the public.

The National Parks of England, Wales and Scotland are living and working landscapes where many of the characteristic qualities that give them their appeal are as much the result of human activity, especially farming, as of natural forces. It is in the interests of maintaining the close connections between local communities, economies and environmental conservation that the National Park Authorities have an additional statutory duty:

  • in pursuing the purposes, to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park by working closely with the agencies and local authorities responsible for these matters.

Whilst in most cases the two purposes are mutually supportive and have equal status, if an occasion arises where there is an acute conflict between the two purposes, the Environment Act 1995 applies greater weight to the first purpose concerned with conservation and enhancement. This is sometimes referred to as the 'Sandford Principle'.

Who is responsible for fulfilling the National Park purposes?

Dartmoor National Park Authority was set up as a special purpose local authority under the Environment Act 1995. The Authority is a freestanding local authority governed by appointed members. Prior to 1995 the National Park was administered as a committee of Devon County Council.

Section 62 of the Environment Act 1995 makes it a duty for all relevant authorities (including Government departments and agencies, utility companies and parish councils) to have regard to National Park purposes when coming to decisions or carrying out their activities. This duty safeguards National Park interests and encourages pursuit of the purposes by a wide range of bodies and organisations. Relevant authorities are expected to be able to demonstrate that they have fulfilled their Section 62 duty.

Government Vision for National Parks

The Government has worked with National Parks England to develop a vision for the Parks, as set out below. This is intended to guide the long-term planning and strategic decision making of the National Park Authorities, and to inform other public bodies and those with a statutory interest (relevant authorities as defined in section 11A of the 1949 Act) on how to meet their statutory duty ‘to have regard to’ Park purposes in exercising their functions.

UK Government Vision for the English National Parks and the Broads

By 2030 English National Parks and the Broads will be places where:

  • There are thriving, living, working landscapes notable for their natural beauty and cultural heritage. They inspire visitors and local communities to live within environmental limits and to tackle climate change. The wide range of services they provide (from clean water to sustainable food) are in good condition and valued by society.
  • Sustainable development can be seen in action. The communities of the Parks take an active part in decisions about their future. They are known for having been pivotal in the transformation to a low carbon society and sustainable living. Renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, low carbon transport and travel, and healthy, prosperous communities have long been the norm.
  • Wildlife flourishes and habitats are maintained, restored and expanded, and linked effectively to other ecological networks. Woodland cover has increased and all woodlands are sustainably managed, with the right trees in the right places. Landscapes and habitats are managed to create resilience and enable adaptation.
  • Everyone can discover the rich variety of England’s natural and historic environment, and have the chance to value them as places for escape, adventure, enjoyment, inspiration and reflection, and a source of national pride and identity. They will be recognised as fundamental to our prosperity and wellbeing.