Helping you understand Welsh law

National Parks

The law about National Parks is statutory and domestic; there is no EU law about national parks as such, but the national park regime is used to deliver EU objectives in a number of environmental areas. For discussion of the history and status of the National Parks see R. (on the application of Harris) v Broads Authority [2016] EWHC 799 (Admin); Times, May 9, 2016.

1. Under the Environment Act 1995 s.63, Welsh Ministers may establish a National Park Authority for an existing or new National Park.

2. The principles to be applied in the designation of areas are discussed in Meyrick Estate Management Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [2007] EWCA Civ 53; [2007] Env. L.R. 26.

3. The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 regulates the provision and purpose of National Parks.

4. Section 4A of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (as inserted by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 Sch.8 para.1(4) and amended by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and the Natural Resources Body for Wales (Functions) Order 2013/755) provides for Pt II of the 1949 Act to apply to land in Wales as they apply to land in England, but with functions being conferred not on Natural England but on the Natural Resources Body for Wales (known as Natural Resources Wales).

5. Section 5 of the 1949 Act provides that the purposes of the provisions about National Parks are the purposes: "(a) of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the areas specified in the next following subsection; and (b) of promoting opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of those areas by the public."

6. Section 11A of the 1949 Act inserted by the Environment Act 1995 s.62 requires National Park authorities to "seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park, but without incurring significant expenditure in doing so, and [to] co-operate with local authorities and public bodies whose functions include the promotion of economic or social development within the area of the National Park"; and "if it appears that there is a conflict between those purposes, [to] attach greater weight to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area comprised in the National Park."

7. There are presently three Welsh National Parks - Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire Coast and Brecon Beacons - which together account for 20 percent of the land in Wales and include landscape and habitat areas, villages and heritage sites.

8. National Parks UK is an association of chairmen and convenors of the UK National Park Authorities. Within that overall system, National Parks Wales deals with particular Welsh issues. The National Parks Wales executive includes representatives from the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales.

9. National Park authorities have a suite of general powers and duties in relation to the management of their areas - Environment Act 1995 ss.65, 70 and Schs 8 and 9.

10. Each National Park authority is obliged to prepare a five-yearly Management Plan for the Park "which formulates its policy for the management of the relevant Park and for the carrying out of its functions in relation to that Park" - s.66.

11. Local planning authorities have power to make byelaws in relation to National Park land "for the preservation of order, for the prevention of damage to the land or waterway or anything thereon or therein, and for securing that persons resorting thereto will so behave themselves as to avoid undue interference with the enjoyment of the land or waterway by other persons" - s.90 of the 1949 Act; for discussion of the extent of the power see R. v Dyfed CC Ex p. Manson [1995] Env. L.R. 83.

Management of National Parks

Local planning authorities have a statutory power in relation to National Parks to make arrangements to ensure that there are facilities for accommodation, food and drink, camping and parking - s.12.

12. There is also a special statutory power relating to the improvement of waterways for recreational purposes - s.13.

13. Much land within National Parks is owned by private landowners, including residents, farmers and charitable trusts (including the National Trust). National Park Authorities may own some of the land within their Park. The Welsh Government has a statutory power to acquire land (non-compulsorily) in National Parks - s.14. The acquired land is then generally to be transferred to a trust or other body to maintain. A National Park authority has duties to notify the Environment Agency of sites of special interest in their area - Environment Act 1995 s.8.


National Park authorities have levying powers by which they can impose levies on relevant local authorities. The National Park Authorities (Levies) (Wales) Regulations 1995/3019 provide for the issue of levies to billing authorities by National Park authorities for National Parks in Wales established by art.3 of the National Park Authorities (Wales) Order 1995/2803, under the Environment Act 1995 s.71.

14. National Parks can also receive grants funding from central Government - Environment Act 1995 s.72. The Secretary of State may make grants to a National Park authority, but before determining amounts and purposes of grants to a National Park authority in Wales, Natural Resources Wales has a statutory right to be consulted.

Planning and National Parks

A National Park authority is the local planning authority for the whole of its area - Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 s.37(5), Environment Act 1995 ss.68, 69, and Town and Country Planning Act 1990 s.4A. The effect of s.4A is discussed in R. v Northumberland National Park Authority Ex p. Secretary of State for Defence (1999) 77 P. & C.R. 120.

15. National Park Authorities are local authorities for the purpose of a range of statutory provisions relating to planning - see, for example, in relation to development consent orders, the Planning Act 2008 s.43(3)(g).

16. National Park land is treated specially for a number of planning and related purposes - see, for example, the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 s.87(1)(a) under which National Park land may not be included in a simplified planning zone; or s.147A which makes provision about the application to National Parks of Pt VI, Ch.I of the Act (rights of owners to require purchase of interests - interests affected by planning decisions); or s.244A which gives National Park authorities powers to acquire land compulsorily with Ministerial authority.

17. Natural Resources Wales has a statutory right to be consulted on plans for the preparation of a development plan for an area that includes a National Park or any part of one - National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 s.9.

18. For illustrative decisions on planning policies in a National Park see R. (on the application of Dixon) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2008] EWHC 573 (Admin); R. (on the Application of Mills-Owens) v First Secretary of State [2006] EWHC 252 (Admin); and Council for National Parks Ltd v Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority [2005] EWCA Civ 888; [2006] J.P.L. 415.

19. Individual planning decisions in relation to National Parks have to take account of their purpose and nature, but rather than following any particular policy or plan blindly must make an appropriate decision for the circumstances of each case, even if that means departing from a published policy and irrespective of whether the decision may be seen as creating a precedent - Dartmoor National Park Authority v Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions [2003] EWHC 236 (Admin); [2003] 6 E.G. 145 (C.S.).

20. For illustrative discussions of planning implications for Baker v South Downs National Park Authority [2013] P.A.D. 3 and Searle v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2012] EWHC 2269 (Admin); [2013] P.T.S.R. D4. Development is certainly possible in or near a National Park if it does not have a detrimental impact: so, for example, for planning permission for the erection of a single wind turbine on agricultural land near a National Park see R. (on the application of Lancashire) v Northumberland CC [2013] EWHC 3850 (Admin).



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