National Parks

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Bellhagg Barn – Peak District National Park – UK

We have fifteen national parks in the Great Britain, the oldest is the Peak National Park and the newest is the South Downs. It was back way before the second world war that the idea of national parks based on the American system was first mooted. It was just after the war that a progressive Labour government brought the idea to fruition as part of a social system that included a welfare state, education, house building and the National Health System. They realised that open spaces, wilderness, beauty, could not only be good for the soul, but also for the body and mind.

The national parks in Britain are classed as Category V, Yellowstone National Park in the USA is classed as Category II. The classifications are:

Category I: Strict nature reserve/wilderness area: A protected area managed mainly for science or wilderness protection.

Category I tends to exclude all but the lightest of human visitation and then mainly for scientific work. Access is predominantly on foot or by boat.

Category II: National Park: A protected area managed for ecosystem protection and recreation.

Category II has little habitation but may see high human visitation for educational and recreational use. Industry will be excluded.

Category III: Natural Monument: A protected area managed mainly for conservation of specific, unique natural features.

Often small protected areas with high visitor numbers.

Category IV: Habitat and species management area: A protected area managed mainly to preserve specific species and to maintain habitats.

Protection of individual species or habitat often in small areas.

Category V: Protected landscape and seascape: A protected area managed mainly for landscape/seascape protection and recreation.

Protection of an area with a distinct characteristic, cultural, scenic etc

Category VI: Managed resource protected area: A protected area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

Large areas often with low level industrial use of sustainable natural resources.

Britains national parks fall in to category five, being in the main chosen for a distinct scenic characteristic. Hence the Peak has a cement works and huge quarries, lots of businesses and a great deal of habitation. It is therefore not a National Park as detailed in Category II but a protected landscape as detailed in Category V. We just chose to call it a National Park.

The odd thing about this classification of our national parks is it leads to often strange decisions which seem in conflict with each other. So you need the parks planning permission to build a house and must build it in the manner stipulated by the park authority. A zip wire is refused permission because it encroaches on a site of special scientific interest.  Cement works, potash mines, fracking and Gold mining are all activities that are permissible.

Author: Paul Besley

Writer I have spent most of my life escaping into the Peak District National Park, I have grown to love the solitude it can bring. I also have an interest in the growing field of psychogeography particularly, in post-industrial landscapes. I am the author of Dark Peak Walks published by Cicerone Press. I am also studying Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University.

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