The National Park Partnership Plan sets out the overarching vision to guide how all those with a role in looking after the National Park will work together over five years to ensure a successful, sustainable future for this iconic place.
A suite of indicators was published in the current National Park Partnership Plan to measure whether it is delivering what it set out to achieve and having a positive effect on the National Park. The Indicators are intentionally not exhaustive, instead focusing on key areas that are indicative of the outcomes, principles and priorities across the Plan.
In 2019 we analysed delivery in Year 1 of the Partnership Plan against each of these indicators.
In 2021 we reviewed progress for the first three years of the Plan (2018-21), analysing both the indicators and key developments in our operating environment.
Purpose of this Partial Review – This Review provides an update to the comprehensive Year 1-3 Review. We collected information for year 4 (2021/22) and year 5 (2022/23) of the Plan’s delivery where proportionate and insightful, to test the main findings of the Year 1-3 Review and provide an indication of progress since then. The Review presents cumulative progress from April 2018 to March 2023 if available and useful, if not March 2021 or March 2022 findings are re-presented.
It compiles new and existing information, sourced from the National Park Authority and delivery partners, to report on the Indicators of Success and their targets. This of course does not represent everything delivery partners would consider in progressing the Plan, something no single Review could do; as with the Indicators themselves the Review is strategic in nature.
It is important to note that the Indicators of Success are intentionally not exhaustive, instead focusing on key areas that are indicative of the outcomes, principles and priorities across the Plan. Regardless of progress against these indicators, we recognise the dedication, passion and ingenuity of all the people – including National Park staff and board members, volunteers, and our partners – delivering across the National Park during unprecedented and particularly challenging times over the past three years.
When updating progress at end of Year 5 of delivering the Partnership Plan (March 2023) we can categorise these indicators into cross-cutting themes and Indicator-specific themes.
Main findings: Cross-cutting themes
- Putting national policy into practice – Progress across the Indicators during delivery of the Plan demonstrates the role the National Park plays in implementing and integrating national priorities, particularly in critically important areas such as the climate and nature crises, empowering our communities and changing how we use our land.
- Partnership working – Findings also highlight that underpinning all delivery is a significant pipeline of work in development and a deep commitment to partnership working.
- Significant change – The review sits against the backdrop of significant local, regional and global change since the Plan was adopted in March 2018. This includes the declaration of the Climate Emergency and the Nature Crisis, the UK’s exit from the European Union, and the wide-reaching impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Main Findings: Indicator-specific
Four indicators were found to be on track or above target (despite of or excepting covid):
- Volunteering (Indicator 9): Target of 20% increase to number of volunteers (by 2023) was exceeded prior to the pandemic, and the 20% increase sought for number of hours was met by the same point. Pandemic restrictions affected programmes significantly, when volunteer hours dropped to 13% of the baseline year, but we are again seeing healthy growth with volunteer hours back at 49% of the baseline in Y5.
- Outdoor learning (Indicator 10): Annual target of working with 2,500 young people exceeded in years 1 and 2. Year 4 and year 5 did not hit the target but saw significant recovery from year 3, when almost no delivery was possible due to the pandemic, reaching 1,854 and 1,893 young people respectively.
- Affordable housing (Indicator 11): 62% of the 207 homes built during the 5-year period were affordable, despite the impact of the pandemic. This did not meet the target of 375 homes overall (by 2023) but significantly exceeded the target of 25% of all homes being affordable.
- Community-identified projects (Indicator 13): The target of 66 projects (3 projects per Community Action Plan) by 2023 was exceeded by year 3 with 100 projects delivered by March 2021.
Two Indicators found that while progress has been made against the Plan’s objectives, the Covid-19 pandemic had fundamentally changed our operating environment with regards to:
- Visitor economy (Indicator 7): The target to increase the overall economic impact from the tourism economy by 2023 was being met prior to the pandemic but took a sharp decline in 2020. Year 4 saw some recovery but the overall value of the visitor economy is still 29% below the baseline year of 2016. Year 5 figures are not yet available but an interim report shows a notable increase in overall economic impact for 2022.
- Skills development opportunities (Indicator 14): With many skills development activities taking place in person in the National Park, the target to increase them was heavily impacted by the pandemic. It was not proportionate to collect information for Year 4 and Year 5. The next Partnership Plan will be play an important role in defining the skills development needed in the National Park in the context of the Green recovery and Just Transition.
Two Indicators are not providing the insight needed, perhaps proving unfit for purpose, a better understanding is required for those covering:
- Active recreation (Indicator 6): The 2019/20 Visitor Survey shows a decrease in active forms of recreation (main activity) and in low-level walking (all activities). This is inconsistent with national trends in outdoor recreation and experience on the ground, for example the number of people registered with Walk in the Park has grown from 169 to 309 over the life of the Plan. The Visitor Survey runs every five years, so no further results were available in Year 4 and Year 5.
- Reported visitor experience (Indicator 8): The 2019/20 Visitor Survey shows little variance in experience for people with protected characteristics. This is inconsistent with experience on the ground and national trends in outdoor recreation. It is likely that the small number of respondents with protected characteristic(s) in the survey sample is ‘hiding’ important variances. The Visitor Survey runs every five years, so no further results were available in Year 4 and Year 5.
Lastly, findings under six Indicators show good progress but not at the scale and extent sought by the Plan. We will not meet our ambitious targets in these areas by 2023. The review found lots of hard work and valuable progress in these areas of work. However, the required step change is being held back by the constraints of the system we are working in.
- Woodland creation (Indicator 1): 610ha of woodland has been created by the end of year 4 (March 2022) of a target of 2,000ha by 2023. Projections for year 5 were a further 300-500 ha of woodland creation.
- Peatland restoration (Indicator 2): 1,201ha of peatland restoration has been carried out at Year 5 (March 2023) of a target of 2,000 by 2023. It is important to note that years 4 and 5 saw a significant ramping up of delivery, with a combined total of 785ha, or 65% of the 5-year figure.
- Designated site features (Indicator 3): 82% of our designated site features are in favourable or recovering condition at March 2022, of a target of 90% by 2023. Anecdotally we are aware of targeted positive interventions in recent years on key sites, but it is unclear if this is reflected in the monitoring results.
- Water body condition (Indicator 4): Timely data was not available at the time of the review, with the last available data showing 51% of our waterbodies in favourable condition in 2020. It is unlikely that the target of reaching 59% by 2023 has been met as significant environmental pressures on our water bodies remain.
- Public and active travel (Indicator 5): Findings of the comprehensive review in year 3 were mixed, but there was nothing to suggest that significant progress has been made on reducing car-dependency in travelling to and around the National Park. It was not proportionate to collect information for Year 4 and Year 5.
- Sustainable places (Indicator 12): Projects had been completed in 2 communities by March 2020 of a target to deliver in 15 communities by 2023 (3 per year of the Plan). It was not proportionate to collect information for Year 4 and Year 5.
Insights from tracking our Indicators of Success are being shared and used as we develop our new Draft National Park Partnership Plan for 2024-29. They are helping to show what is working, what is not and where we need to deepen our understanding of our work and its impact.