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Julian Glover is a strategic adviser and author of Man of Iron. He recently led the Landscapes Review.

Climb to the top of Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak, and you’ll stand on rocks that are 450 million years old. Look down towards the distant hamlet of Wasdale Head and you might just see a church whose roof timbers are said to date back to the Vikings.

Time does not seem to hurry in such places. But the beauty that visitors flooded out of towns to enjoy after lockdown, the traditions that have shaped it, and the biodiversity that should thrive in wild places like these are in trouble.

If we can find better ways to run our finest landscapes, we will do more for nature and more for people too.

That was the point of the Landscapes Review, commissioned by Defra, which I led, alongside an expert panel with deep experience of the countryside. It reported not long before Covid hit. Now the department has responded with a promise to take action.

I’m pleased that George Eustice and his Lords Minister Richard Benyon have listened to much of what we said and now plan to put many of our ideas into action – and I hope that this important first step will be followed by more ambition, too. I am also pleased by the support and commitment of many Defra officials, and campaigners and organisations that care for our natural environment.

We need change because England’s landscapes can do more for our country and more for people who live and work in them too. A lot has gone well since our country made the brave decision to create National Parks in the years after the Second World War. They are more loved and more visited than ever. But even in the Peak District, where I live, much about nature is in deep decline. Farming is in trouble. Visitors escaping to green spaces after lockdown risk destroying the tranquility and beauty which draws them in the first place.

The Landscapes Review covered on the near-third of England’s green space which has been defined as a national park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – the latter a confusing and underpowered form of protection which we would like to see strengthened. But our aims are national. We want to help these places do more for the country, and more for the people who live in them.

That balance between people and nature is key to it all. It is the central argument of the review. At times debate on rural debate can seem to pit one side against another – supporters of rewinding against farming, for instance, or of affordable housing against green spaces. But I think that’s the wrong way to see things. More for nature does not mean less for people, or the other way around.

Pride in our countryside can bring people together, and if we love more and understand it better, we will care for it well too. City life today is more cut off from the countryside and from the source of the food we eat than ever. Rebuilding those links – through understanding and access – is not just a morally good thing in itself but will make people happier and healthier. It should be a core part of what Michael Gove, the former Defra Secretary of State who commissioned the review, means by levelling up.

Some people worry that all this might mean more rules and bureaucracy. But in the review we have tried to break down barriers, not build them up. We are not trying to tell places how they should be run. But we do want to lift their ambition for what can be done.

That’s why, among our many proposals to help nature, local communities and visitors, our central recommendation is for more collective working. At the moment they are underfunded and underpowered. It is embarrassing that we spend such tiny sums on places such as Cornwall or the Cotswolds, although they are emblems of our country, admired around the world and an inheritance we should leave in a better condition for those who come after us. Government has a role in changing this.

But better run, more ambitious national landscapes will be able to find other sources of support too.

No one report can fix everything and we don’t pretend ours does. But, after working with a brilliant panel, and listening to those who live in, respect and visit our finest landscapes, I know we can do a lot better.  As I wrote of our great landscapes in the foreword of our review, “they really are England’s soul and we should care for them as such”.