Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, Theresa Villiers praised the work of the Northumberland National Park Authority and its partners as she visited Northumberland this week.

On the eve of the release of the Environment Bill, Ms Villiers came to Northumberland National Park and The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre to see for herself the work the Park Authority is doing to conserve and enhance the environment and engage and inspire people to enjoy and care for it.

The Secretary of State met with local farmers at Sewingshields farm on Hadrian’s Wall to discuss the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) and the Defra funded pilot project restoring historic farm buildings. She then visited The Sill, which opened in July 2017 as part of a wider initiative to engage more people with our countryside and rich heritage.

Whilst at The Sill, Ms Villiers met three local schools and a community group to see how Northumberland National Park is transforming the way people connect with the landscape. The engagement activities taking place demonstrated how the Park had set an example of best practise in community engagement and environmental conservation.

The Park’s focus on environmental outcomes and sustainability was the centrepiece of a roundtable discussion, hosted by Northumberland National Park Chairman Glen Sanderson and attended by a range of key stakeholders, including the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC), Northumberland County Council, Forestry England, Natural England and the Environment Agency. The meeting discussed a range of topics with Ms Villiers highlighting partnership approaches, enhancement of biodiversity, acting on climate change, and supporting the rural economy and productivity as key matters.

Ms Villiers said: “I was delighted to visit The Sill as we launched our Environment Bill, which sets a gold standard for protecting nature, improving air quality, increasing recycling and cutting down plastic waste.

“One of the things I was really impressed by during my visit was the work being undertaken to engage a wide section of society and allow them to have a real ownership of our countryside and landscape.

“We will be looking to organisations like The Sill and those that took part in our roundtable discussion to help us live up to the strong environmental ambitions which we have set ourselves. Together we must ensure future generations can enjoy the precious landscapes here in the Northumberland National Park and across the country for decades to come.”

Northumberland National Park Chief Executive Tony Gates said: “The Secretary of State’s visit demonstrates how important National Parks are to helping protect the environment, tackling climate change, engaging future generations with landscape and supporting the rural economy.

“In 2018, the Review of Designated Landscapes challenged all National Parks to do more for nature, lead on climate change and engage more and different people with the Nation’s most treasured landscapes. We were able to show the Secretary of State that we are leading the way and working hard to deliver some great work in these areas and that we are of course keen to do more. The English National Parks have worked together to produce an ambitious road map which sets out how to achieve many of the opportunities set out in this forward-looking review and we are now engaging with Government on how we can deliver this.”