South Downs among national parks to suffer major funding cuts

The South Downs National Park. Credit: Derek Martin
The South Downs National Park. Credit: Derek Martin
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ENGLAND’S national parks have lost millions of pounds in public funding in the last five years, new figures show.

With the exception of the South Downs, which only became operational in 2011, national parks have had their funding cut by a quarter since 2010, losing a total of £10 million overall.

A Press Association investigation has revealed that, in spite of promises to protect funds for national parks in the coming years, many across the country will be receiving significantly less in government grants by 2020 than a decade earlier.

Funding for the South Downs was at its highest in 2011/2012, at just under £11.4 million, but its funding has fallen since then to just under £9.8 million in the last financial year.

The Campaign for National Parks said the cuts to English national park authorities since 2010 has had an impact on services, with the Broads closing three out of six information centres and Dartmoor reducing staff by 35 per cent.

Earlier this year, ministers revealed their plans to increase the number of school visits to England’s national parks and double apprenticeships by 2020.

Fiona Howie, the campaign charity’s chief executive, said that the national parks were created to recognise and protect the beautiful areas rich in wildlife and culture, and the organisation welcomed the government’s aspiration for more people to benefit from them.

But she also pointed out that an increase in visitors means higher maintenance costs, an example of such repairs are those of the footpaths which can cost between £100 and £160 a metre.

She said: ‘If we want the parks to inspire current and future generations we need to make sure they receive the resources necessary for them to be maintained and, ideally, enhanced’.