Nothing reflects the high quality of Hampshire’s landscape more than the coverage of nationally important protected areas. Hampshire has two National Parks and three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) covering a total area of about 144,000 hectares or about 38% of the County, and the County Council is actively engaged in their management. They are:
- New Forest National Park
- SouthDowns National Park
- North Wessex Downs AONB
- Cranborne Chase AONB
- Chichester Harbour AONB
The AONBs are funded by local authorities and Defra and managed through partnerships involving them, other Government agencies, local organisations and the voluntary sector. The primary purpose of AONBs is:
to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of their area.
and the two secondary purposes are:
to meet the need for quiet enjoyment of the countryside: and
to have regard for the interests of those who live and work there.
It is the duty of the partner local authorities to prepare Management Plans for AONB’s. Reviewed Management Plans were published for Hampshire's AONBs in 2014. Implementation of the Management Plans is the responsibility of all the partners, who work with the wider communities of the AONBs to undertake projects, research and programmes that deliver AONB objectives.
National Parks are run and managed in a different way from AONB’s. A National Park Board is a local authority in its own right, again formed from local authorities, Government agencies, local organisations and the voluntary sector, but with many more powers than AONB partnerships. The statutory purposes of National Parks are:
to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of their areas; and
to promote opportunities for the public understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of their areas by the public.
National Parks also have an additional duty to seek to foster the economic well-being of local communities within their areas.
It is the duty of National Park Authorities to prepare Management Plans for their protected areas. The South Downs National Park Authority worked with its partners to publish the first Partnership Management Plan in 2014. The New Forest National Park is currently working with its partners to review the current 2010 Plan and will publish a new Partnership Management Plan in 2015.
Further information about National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty can be obtained from Natural England