Slightly odd ‘story’
In the Guardian there is a slightly odd story about how disadvantaged people are by not having access to National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
From Exmoor to Northumberland, the country’s poorest people are being denied access to England’s most beautiful countryside and missing out on the mental and physical health benefits that can result, research has found.
Where I live, between Northampton and Peterborough, is a black spot for access to these areas apparently. Well, yes, that’s geography for you! Since most of our National Parks are up hills and most of our AONBs are either up slightly smaller hills or at the coast then anyone nestling in the heart of England is going to be ‘disadvantaged’ in this way.
I’m looking forward to the obvious solution to this huge social issue – make my back garden a National Park! By doing so, with the landowner’s approval, we would immediately fill in a gap in the map and bring huge numbers of people closer to a valued landscape. In addition, the Avery Garden National Park would have less raptor persecution than any of our existing National Parks and I’d be happy to sell teas to all comers thus boosting the perirural economy. You might have to give me a few weeks to tidy up though please.
Usually similar reports stress the North-South divide but since large areas of National Parks are ‘oop north’ it’s not possible to do that here. I’d like to see the analysis though. And the one that says that people living in the middle of the country are disadvantaged by not having access to the sea.
The original CPRE report is a little more sensible than the Guardian report – but not very much.
Here’s how it starts;
CPRE believes that England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) contain our most beautiful landscapes and are hugely important to the nation’s health and wellbeing, providing attractive places for people to live, work or play and making a significant contribution to the economy through tourism and farming. They are also nature’s home, providing habitats for many threatened species and vital environmental services such as carbon storage and alleviating flooding. Indeed, protecting our most precious landscapes was a core aim for CPRE when it was formed in 1926.
This is just trotting out the usual pap. Are National Parks and AONBs really ‘hugely important’ to the nation’s health and wellbeing? How hugely? And how measured? No matter, it’s a belief not a fact. Maybe it’s actually an aspiration masquerading as a belief and thrown out there to look like a fact? What is the difference between living and working and playing exactly? Surely these areas are attractive ones for people to die in too? The phrase is almost completely lacking in any meaningful content. Do National Parks and AONBs make a significant contribution to the economy through tourism and faming? What is the evidence for that? No matter, it’s a belief. How significant is that contribution? In particular, I’d love to see the evidence that farming in these areas makes a significant contribution to the economy. Although this is the type of thing that everybody says because we are all supposed to feel sorry for farmers it is very unlikely to be true. Without subsidies (that’s your money) most farming in National Parks is uneconomic (it’s true of most farming and even more true of that carried out in upland National Parks and AONBs). When subsidy payments disappear we will have shed an economic burden n society and we will soon see how profitable farming is, which is why the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife suggests a safety net for farmers in National Parks – a public land acquisition scheme (and see here). And the idea that National Parks and AONBs are ‘nature’s home’ (Yuk! But I guess the RSPB have almost stopped using that phrase these days. And should I be sending the nature around me back to my nearest, distant, National Park?) is ludicrous given that they are some of the most damaged landscapes we have – overgrazed, overburned, overdrained and with wildlife crime running wild through ‘protected’ landscapes! To be fair, our upland National Parks do provide habitats for some of our threatened species, such as the Hen Harrier, Peregrine Falcon and Red Kite, quite good habitat for them in places, it’s just that they are wiped out by the current guardians of the countryside so we hardly ever see them there benefitting in the habitats which exist.
And here’s a quote from the third paragraph of the ‘report’;
And shockingly, almost half of people in the most deprived areas of the country are outside of the catchment, so are less likely to reap the benefits of landscapes designated for the nation.
Now, I am a Guardian reader, so I am easily shocked and my hackles will rise at the merest whiff of social injustice but … doesn’t this mean that more than half of people in the most deprived areas of the country are inside the catchment and so are more likely to reap the benefits of landscapes designated for the nation? That sounds like a good news story to me. It is, isn’t it? And it sounds quite remarkably good given the area covered by National Parks and AONBs. And what are the comparable figures for the least deprived areas? I wonder whether they are rather similar?
But there are some good bits too in the CPRE ‘report’ if you fight your way through the guff. Have a look and see for yourself. I think the good bits are to do with access to these areas and the infrastructure within them once you get there. The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife has some things to say about those matters too.