Every schoolchild in England should get the opportunity to “spend a night under the stars” in an idyllic landscape, an independent review has suggested.
Helping pupils connect with nature through visits would ensure protected areas such as national parks are “open to everyone”, the review’s author said.
Julian Glover was asked to review England’s 70-year-old national park system and areas of outstanding natural beauty by the environment secretary.
He says they need to be “re-ignited”.
Mr Glover’s review says challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and a trend towards increased urban living mean fresh ideas are needed to give England’s protect landscapes new purpose.
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Among his recommendations are a National Landscapes Service to act as a unified body for the country’s 10 national parks and 34 areas of outstanding natural beauty, and a 1,000-strong “ranger service” to help engage the public.
Mr Glover, a journalist and former government aide, suggests overnight school trips would help pupils understand more about the natural environment, and he recommends new protections and funding to help improve beautification.
And he said a new national park should be created in the Chilterns, with a new “national forest” in Nottinghamshire to fight climate change.
Where are England’s 10 national parks?
- Lake District
- Peak District
- The Broads
- North York Moors
- South Downs National Park
- Exmoor National Park
- Dartmoor National Park
- The New Forest
- Northumberland National Park
- Yorkshire Dales National Park
Mr Glover said: “If we take action, we can make our country healthier, happier, greener, more beautiful and part of all our lives.
“Seventy years ago this year we created our national parks for a nation that had just won the Second World War. Now it’s time to reignite that mission.”
The review was commissioned by former Environment Secretary Michael Gove in May last year.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Mr Glover’s recommendations would be “carefully considered” by the government, with new funding debated “in the future”.
She said: “We think it’s an excellent report and we’re going to be carefully considering its recommendations.
“There are a lot of great ideas which are consistent with our determination to remedy the disastrous loss of biodiversity and nature habits we’ve experienced in this country over recent years.”
Ms Villiers said Mr Glover’s idea to have school visits to protected landscapes echoes the government’s aims.
Corinne Pluchino, Chief Executive of Campaign for National Parks said: “We welcome the timely publication of this ambitious agenda for our most beautiful landscapes.
“There is an pressing need to address the urgent challenges in our National Parks. We will be reviewing the report in detail and will be working to ensure the momentum is maintained.”