A report published by National Parks England last week attempts to put a monetary value on England's most priceless landscapes.
The report, Valuing England's National Parks, highlights the importance of National Parks not just as beautiful places but as thriving rural economies.
Explained in officialese, it: 'seeks to present the latest economic and socio-economic data relating to the National Parks, to assess the contribution of National Parks to economic prosperity and well-being, and to identify future opportunities for National Park Authorities to further support sustainable rural economies in partnership with local communities, businesses and local government partners.'
According to the report over 50% of people in England live within an hour's travel of a National Park, and there are over 90 million visits to the parks annually. Visitors to the English National Parks spend at least £4bn, contributing about one third of the spend from rural tourism in England.
There are around 22,500 businesses in the National Parks with a combined turnover of £10.4bn and employing 140,000 people. While tourism, recreation, farming and forestry make a large contribution to park economies, other sectors are still significant and provide around 50% of employment overall. And last year employment in National Parks actually grew by 2.7%.
But in these cash-strapped times annual public spending on National Parks via the National Park Grant is less than £1 per head of the population.
John Dyke, Chair of National Parks England, said:
'English National Parks contribute between £4.1-£6.3bn to the economy through economic activity within their boundaries. That's equivalent to the UK aerospace industry. This report really shows the great value of National Parks to the economy and National Park Authorities' role in supporting rural communities and businesses. It also reminds us of the other benefits National Parks provide – clean water, stunning landscapes, wildlife habitats, a place to relax or to be active to name but a few. These are hard to put a figure on but immensely important to us all as are the economic benefits that flow from them.'
Environment Minister Richard Benyon said:
'Our National Parks are the most treasured places in the country. More than 90 million people visit them each year, helping to boost economic growth in rural areas. This report highlights the value of these areas in promoting tourism and contributing to the UK economy.'
The report can be seen here.