ENGLAND'S National Parks are worth as much as the UK aerospace industry to the economy, says a report.
National parks are thriving rural economies as well as iconic landscapes and part of the national identity, says the study.
The document, Valuing England's National Parks, was published by National Parks England on Friday (24 May).
Chairman John Dyke said: "English National Parks contribute between £4.1-£6.3bn to the economy through economic activity within their boundaries.
"That's equivalent to the UK aerospace industry."
The report also showed the value of National Park Authorities' in supporting rural communities and businesses.
"It also reminds us of the other benefits National Parks provide – clean water, stunning landscapes, wildlife habitats, a place to relax or to be active to name but a few.
"These are hard to put a figure on but immensely important to us all as are the economic benefits that flow from them."
The report includes case studies showing how National Park Authorities support rural businesses, communities and economies while ensuring the National Parks remain places where people want to live, work and visit with rich cultural and ecological assets.
More than 50% of people in England live within an hour's travel of a National Park – but the benefits of National Parks extend beyond their boundaries, says the report.
There are around 22,500 businesses in the National Parks with a combined turnover of £10.4bn employing 140,000 people.
Over 90 million people visit the English National Parks each year – this compares with 5 million visitors a year each to the British Museum, Tate Modern, the National Gallery or the Natural History Museum – the four most popular free visitor attractions in England.
Visitors to the English National Parks spend at least £4bn, contributing about one third of the spend from rural tourism in England.
Defra minister Richard Benyon said: 'Our National Parks are the most treasured places in the country.
He added: "This report highlights the value of these areas in promoting tourism and contributing to the UK economy."
While tourism, recreation, farming and forestry make a large contribution to National Park economies, other sectors are still significant and provide around 50% of National Park employment overall.
In 2012 employment in National Parks grew by 2.7%.
Public spending on National Parks via the National Park Grant is less than £1 per person per year.
National Park Authorities increase the value of this spending by bringing in around 50p per person in funding from other sources.
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