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National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 facts for kids

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National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act
Long title An Act to make provision for National Parks and the establishment of a National Parks Commission ; to confer on the Nature Conservancy and local authorities powers for the establishment and maintenance of nature reserves ; to make further provision for the recording, creation, maintenance and improvement of public paths and for securing access to open country, and to amend the law relating to rights of way; to confer further powers for preserving and enhancing natural beauty ; and for matters connected with the purposes aforesaid.
Introduced by Sir Arthur Hobhouse
Territorial extent England, Scotland and Wales
Royal Assent 16 December 1949 (1949-12-16)
Other legislation
Amendments The Natural Resources Body for Wales (Functions) Order 2013 (portion)
Related legislation
Status: Amended
History of passage through Parliament
Records of Parliamentary debate relating to the statute from Hansard, at TheyWorkForYou
Records of Parliamentary debate relating to the statute from
Text of statute as originally enacted
Text of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which created the National Parks Commission which later became the Countryside Commission and then the Countryside Agency, which became Natural England when it merged with English Nature in 2006. The Act provided the framework for the creation of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, and also addressed public rights of way and access to open land. The Act was passed in 1949 with all-party support, as part of the reconstruction of the UK by the Labour government after World War II.

The Act followed reports by:

  • a Government committee chaired by Christopher Addison (later Viscount Addison) in 1931,
  • John Dower, secretary of the Standing Committee on National Parks, to the Minister of Town and Country Planning in 1945, and
  • a Government committee chaired by Sir Arthur Hobhouse in 1947, which proposed 12 national parks.

The first 10 British national parks were designated as such in the 1950s under the Act in mostly poor-quality agricultural upland. An eleventh 'national park' in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads was set up by a special Act of Parliament, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act, in 1988 (strictly speaking, this is not a national park, but the differences are sufficiently small that this entity is always regarded as being "equivalent to" a national park). The New Forest was designated a national park on 1 March 2005. The South Downs, the last of the 12 areas chosen in the 1947 Hobhouse Report, was designated as South Downs National Park by then-Secretary of State Hilary Benn in March 2009.

The structure set up by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 was amended by:

  • the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which created the Nature Conservancy Council (which later became Natural England and transferred functions of the Countryside Commission in Wales to the Countryside Council for Wales)
  • the Environment Act 1995, under which each national park is now operated by its own National Park Authority
  • the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, under which AONBs are now designated

Further amendments are made by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, under which English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service merged on 1 October 2006 to form new bodies called Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities.

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