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:

    “of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the (Dartmoor National Park) area”.

    “of promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the (Dartmoor National Park) 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:

“A National Park authority, in pursuing… the purposes… shall seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park, but without incurring significant expenditure in doing so, and shall for that purpose co-operate with local authorities and public bodies whose functions include the promotion of economic or social development within the area of the National Park.”

The Sandford Principle

National Parks should pursue both of the purposes and where one is in conflict with the other, seeking to achieve a balance between the two through careful management. This approach is informed by the so called ‘Sandford Principle’ which came about through the Report of the National Parks Policy Review Committee, 1974.

The Environment Act 1995 s62 (1) (2) states:

“In exercising or performing any functions in relation to, or so as to affect, land in a National Park, any relevant authority shall have regard to the purposes specified in subsection (1) of section five of this Act and, if it appears that there is a conflict between those purposes, shall attach greater weight to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area comprised in the National Park.”

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.