National Park Purposes

Haytor sunset

What are the National Park purposes and duty?

English National Parks were created with two purposes which are set out in law. These shape what the National Parks are, the reason for their designation, and how they should be managed.

First Purpose: To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area.

Second Purpose: To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the Special Qualities of the National Park by the public.

Pursuit of the purposes can lead to conflicts, such as the need to conserve wildlife and habitats, but also encourage people to enjoy and learn from the countryside. In circumstances where the purposes of the National Park conflict the Sandford Principle is used to guide decision making. The Sandford Principle states that if there is a conflict between National Park purposes which cannot be resolved, the first purpose, of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, will be given greater weight.

National Parks have not, however, been designated as wilderness parks; their communities are fundamental to their character. The government therefore placed a social and economic duty upon National Park Authorities themselves.

Duty: To seek to foster the economic and social wellbeing of the local communities within the National Park.

All relevant authorities, including statutory undertakers and other public bodies, are required by law4 to have regard to National Park purposes. The Defra Vision and Circular on English National Parks and the Broads5 provides guidance on achieving National Park purposes and the duty.