The New Forest and South Downs National Parks are at risk of becoming permanent retirement and dormitory zones rather than the living and working communities that they need to be in order to maintain their unique characteristics – according to the Country Land and Business Association.
The warning follows an analysis of the 2011 Census which highlights a decline in the working age population in national parks nationwide.
CLA South East surveyor Tim Broomhead said: "The statistics regarding the other national parks within the UK show that retaining young families living and working in what are often remote rural communities is a real challenge. Retirement villages will not generate the economic activity essential to the maintenance and management of the countryside - future planning policies in national parks must recognise the need for affordable housing, for jobs and accessible services.
"The days when people were employed exclusively on the land and in the village bakeries and blacksmiths have long gone - but planning policies need to adapt and to become more flexible if we are to enable the communities living within the national parks to become genuinely sustainable. The unique landscapes of the South Downs and New Forest national parks are inextricably linked to their economic viability.
"Looking after the landscape, the habitat and biodiversity costs money - which is why the CLA has long called for a balanced approach which takes all three pillars of sustainable development into consideration, economic, social and environmental. If agriculture, diversification, housing, jobs and tourism are stifled or put at risk, then the landscape which depends upon them – and which the public so loves - will degrade."
The CLA is currently working closely with the South Downs National Park Authority on its new management plan to ensure that the South Downs National Park Authority recognises these challenges and plans for an economically and socially vibrant future.
Find out more about the 2011 Census: Key Statistics for national parks in England and Wales http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-296271