The largest area of almost continuous National Park will be created after long-mooted plans to extend the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District were announced.
The Yorkshire Dales national park will grow by almost a quarter and the Lake District by three per cent under the plans announced by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss.
Defra said the decision will “virtually join up” the spaces, boosting rural tourism in the area, supporting rural businesses and potentially adding millions more to the £4 billion already generated by visitors to National Parks each year.
The announcement, which Defra says will protect these landscapes for future generations, was made as the Secretary of State visited Wensleydale Creamery, based in Hawes in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Ms Truss said: “The Dales and the Lakes have some of our country’s finest landscapes, beautiful vistas and exciting wildlife. They are part of our national identity.
“National Parks are fabulous national assets that welcome over 90 million tourists and contribute to our vibrant rural economy – we are committed to helping them thrive.”
For 50 years, conservationists have been complaining of “unfinished business” around the borders of the parks.
To the north, the Dales National Park will be extended to include parts of the Orton Fells, the northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang.
To the west it will include Barbon, Middleton, Casterton and Leck Fells, the River Lune, and part of Firbank Fell and other fells to the west of the River Lune.
The extension areas will come into effect in August 2016.
In total, an additional 188 square miles of land across Cumbria and a small part of Lancashire will now be protected.
The announcement is the first step in delivering this government’s manifesto pledge of stronger protections for natural landscapes to ensure Britain has the best natural environment anywhere.