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75 Years of National Parks

6th February 2024

As well as being CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire the charity represents the Campaign for National Parks in the Peak District National Park. In our dealings with the Peak District National Park Authority in this specific role we are known as Friends of the Peak District.

2024 marks the 75th anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. An act which secured access for everyone to open countryside whilst preserving and enhancing natural beauty; founded on the understanding that connection with nature is essential to the health of people, society and the planet. This truly visionary legislation has had a vast and lasting impact on our relationship with the natural environment across the UK and is an achievement we must celebrate and not take for granted.

The 1949 Act is the result of decades of campaigning and action from groups and individuals who understood the vital importance of enshrining everyone’s ability to access nature in law. At the end of the 19th century attitudes towards mankind’s treatment of the natural world were changing – people were angry about the degrading of the countryside and the lack of access to it. In the early 20th century public appreciation of natural beauty and a growing desire to enjoy the countryside clashed with unchecked development and the denial of freedom to roam, creating an urgent need to protect landscapes for nature and recreation.

Campaign for National Parks (known as the Standing Committee on National Parks in 1936) was born out of this need for accessing the countryside and the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 was our first success. Not only did the Act enable the creation of National Parks but also countryside access, National Trails, National Landscapes (formerly Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty), Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves – all fundamental in creating and maintaining spaces for nature and people to thrive.

The last 75 years have seen huge changes in the landscape of the UK, some good, some bad. We’ve seen more National Park designations and great protections for Protected Landscapes, and although we’re facing unprecedented challenges from nature loss and climate change, Protected Landscapes are key to tacking these issues head on.

We know there is more to be done and celebrating the 75th anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 means we can come together and collaborate for the future of National Parks and all Protected Landscapes in the UK.

Find out more about Campaign for National Parks