EUROPARC Atlantic Isles
Year of creation: 1991
Number of members: 30
The core areas of work: Health, marine protected areas, volunteering programmes
Contact person: Richard Blackman
About their work
There is a great deal of diversity in the management of protected landscapes in the UK, a trend that has deepened since devolution to Scotland and Wales and new governance arrangements in Northern Ireland. Nonetheless some common issues can be identified.
The key issue for all protected landscapes in the UK is financial sustainability and securing enough resources to fulfil their statutory purposes. Budget cuts in recent years have had a significant impact. There were though some grounds for optimism after the 2015 autumn financial statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which protected the existing budgets of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, protected areas have had to demonstrate their contribution to the rural economy. There has been an emphasis on promoting landscape as a valuable asset and encouraging cooperation between protected areas and local businesses, especially through tourism and outdoor recreation.
There is also a growing recognition of the value of the natural environment for positive health benefits. An increasing number of protected areas are working with the health sector on health projects. In times of competing priorities for government funds, this is an area that could expand significantly, particularly if effective ways of partnership across sectors can be established to build on the fact that the natural environment can reduce pressures on health services.
Other important issues include the development of volunteering programmes and the additional new challenge, related to the UK government’s growth agenda, of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) possibly being allowed in national parks and AONBs.
As a Section, EUROPARC Atlantic Isles is not immune from the financial challenges affecting the sector and its work programme has sought to reflect these changed circumstances. It has developed a Protected Area Learning Programme, which brings together different means of sharing information, experience and good practice in cost effective ways. These have included E-News, webinars and thematic networks. Further funding is currently being sought to develop the programme’s training and learning methods.