Every child in Britain must spend a night under the stars as too many have lost touch with nature, government warned

Sarah Knapton
Many children have never seen a starry night sky - PA

Every child in Britain must spend a night under the stars because far too many have lost touch with nature, a major government review has advised.

In a report for the Department of the Environment (Defra), author and editor Julian Glover said encouraging greater use of England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty would make the public happier and healthier.

He warned that many inner-city children never get the opportunity to visit the countryside or see the night sky lit up with stars.

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Glover said: “The bleak truth is that while many of us live in, visit and enjoy our countryside, for many of our fellow citizens it is a distant and unknown place. 

“It’s shocking that many children grow up today never having left towns and cities at all - which is why as part of the proposals in today’s review we call for every child in England to get a chance to visit and spend a night under the stars.

“If the call of the curlew, the swirl of bats at dusk or the sight of a red squirrel is to be something other than a legend future generations tell of the past, then we need radical change now. Nature is in crisis and things such as bird numbers and insect life are crashing fast. 

“The big message of our report is that we can make our country happier, healthier, greener, more beautiful and open to everyone. We live in such a splendid country. This is our chance not just to ensure we keep it that way, but to make it even better.”

National Parks like the Lake District in Cumbria need more funding and new rangers, the report has said Credit: Joe Dunckley 

The review was published exactly 70 years after after the Act of Parliament that created the first National Parks following a report by Sir Arthur Hobhouse’s in 1947 which called for parks as a “recreational gift to Britain’s returning Second World War service men and women.”

The new report also recommends creating a 1,000 strong ranger service to be the ‘friendly face’ of the countryside and help engage schools and communities. New funding will also be needed to redress the decades of decline experienced in many parks.

And it backs a new National Park in the Chilterns and a new National Forest, taking in areas such as Sherwood Forest, as part of a drive to increase woodland spaces to fight climate change.

New long-term programmes to increase the number of British, Asian, minority and ethnic (BAME) visitors to the countryside and an improvement in signage is also recommended.

Responding to the publication, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “These landscapes are the jewels in the crown of our countryside and are a cornerstone of our rural economy. We are committed to ensuring they flourish as havens for nature and sites that everyone in the country goes to visit for inspiration, adventure or relaxation.  

 I welcome and agree with the spirit of ambition, which is in line with our 25 Year Environment Plan, and we will now carefully consider the recommendations set out in the review.”

Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB) and National Parks cover a quarter of England’s land and are home to over 2.3 million people – with more than 66 per cent of Britons living within half an hour of a National Park or AONB. 

They also generate more than £20 billion for the rural economy, and support 75,000 jobs.

Corinne Pluchino, Chief Executive of Campaign for National Parks, said: “We welcome the timely publication of this ambitious agenda for our most beautiful landscapes. 

“There is a pressing need to address the urgent challenges in our National Parks.”