HC Deb 06 November 2001 vol 374 cc146-7W
Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make it her policy to accord Environmentally Sensitive Area status to all national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.[11909]

Alun Michael

Under the Agriculture Act 1986, Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) may be designated where the maintenance or adoption of particular farming methods is likely to contribute to the conservation or enhancement of natural beauty, biodiversity, features, buildings or historic interest. In England, a total of 22 ESAs were designated between 1987 and 1994, many of which overlap with National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Since 1996, this Department has also operated the Countryside Stewardship Scheme which provides payments for similar objectives outside designated ESAs. There are no plans to designate any further ESAs pending the review of all agri-environment schemes which is due to begin shortly.