PLANS have been announced to make the Malvern Hills a national park, which would bring millions of pounds of new investment to the area.

The Labour Party’s proposals to introduce 10 new national parks across the country include the Malvern Hills.

Labour says the move would bring about £230 million in investment to the West Midlands and create more than 2,300 jobs, as work takes place to improve the sites which become national parks, while a new authority would manage the hills.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Worcester, Lynn Denham, welcomed the plans, saying: “Going for a walk in the countryside is one of the great pleasures of life. It’s great exercise, and it does you so much good to be in nature and breathe in a bit of fresh air.

“The Malvern Hills are a hugely important green lung for Worcester residents.

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“So many people go to escape the city and experience the open spaces and hilltop views.

“It is favourite day out for people of all ages. The chance to invest in the future biodiversity and sustainability of the hills is really exciting

“And if we’re going to protect our woodlands, and carry on enjoying our environment, then we need Labour’s green industrial revolution.

“It’s going to create a million green jobs, while fighting climate change and keeping England green for the next generation.”

In response, the city’s conservative candidate Robin Walker questioned what impact the change in status would actually have, and called for investment in other areas.

He said: “It is a lot of money, but the reality is the hills are a fully protected already, so the money might not make that much difference.

“I have been going to the hills all my life and have family photographs of my father carrying me on his shoulders, but I don’t really understand what difference it will make.

“I am sure people would rather see the money invested in new parks and improvements - Labour opposed the footbridge linking Gheluvelt Park with another park.

“The other thing is when you set up a national park, it involves introducing various restrictions on the area and the people there.

“I think it sounds like a great national policy, but the people who live there should be consulted first.”

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The proposal also includes a commitment to plant two billion new trees by 2040, in order to tackle the climate and environment emergency.

Sites which are earmarked for national park status will be judged on their current state of environmental degradation, their potential for carbon removal, the potential for increased biodiversity the existing management planning capacity, and how accessible the parks will be to nearby towns and cities.

Restored habitats will mean endangered species such as wading birds, hedgehogs, red squirrels, water voles, fish and insect life can recover and become re-established in the Malvern Hills.

The Malvern Hills Trust, which manages the hills, said: "We have seen today’s announcement in the Labour manifesto for the Malvern Hills to be considered as one of 10 new National Parks in England.

"We have been caring for the Malvern Hills and surrounding commons since 1884 to conserve the important features and special qualities here.

"Should it go ahead, the National Park designation would not be likely to alter landownership or the Malvern Hills Acts which apply to all 1,200 hectares of the land under our jurisdiction.

"We have seen no further details regarding this proposal so cannot comment further.”

At the launch of Labour’s 'Plan for Nature' leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn said: "This election is our last chance to tackle the climate and environment emergency. Labour is on your side and on the side of the environment.

“We’ll expand and restore our habitats and plant trees so that we can create natural solutions to bring down emissions and allow our wildlife to flourish.

“Labour created the first national parks, and we'll create ten more, giving people the access to the green spaces so vital for our collective wellbeing and mental health.”