Role details

Secretary of State members to National Park Authorities and AONB Conservation Boards

Application deadline 20 February 2023


National Park Authorities, with the exception of Parish Members
Sponsor department
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Number of vacancies
Time commitment
48 day(s) per annum
Length of term
National Park Authority – 4 years AONB Conservation Boards – 3 years
Application deadline
Midday on 20 February 2023

Apply for this role

Timeline for this appointment

  1. Opening date

    23 January 2023

  2. Application deadline

    Midday on 20 February 2023

  3. Sifting date

    10 March 2023

  4. Interviews expected to end on

    31 March 2023

Timeline dates are only an estimate and can change

Person specification

Essential criteria

1. Enthusiasm and a genuine passion for the work of National Park Authorities and AONB Conservation Boards. This includes conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the areas, and promoting the public’s understanding and enjoyment of the area’s special qualities.

2. An ability to successfully engage with and influence a wide-ranging audience in an ambassador role for an organisation.

3. A demonstrable commitment to promote and increase equality, diversity and inclusion.

4. An ability to think strategically, contribute and scrutinise complex plans and policies.

5. High standards of integrity and impartiality to ensure transparency, strong governance, and efficiency.

Role description


There are ten National Parks (including the Broads Authority), and thirty-four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including two Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Conservation Boards in England. 

The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act (1949) enabled the designation of National Parks and AONBs in England and Wales. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 permitted AONBs to form Conservation Boards to aid management, particularly in cases where AONBs cross several administrative boundaries.

In 2004, Conservation Boards were created for the Chilterns AONB and Cotswolds AONB.

National Parks and Cotswolds and Chilterns AONBs are protected because of their natural beauty and the wealth of opportunities provided for outdoor recreation, being designated nationally and internationally important landscapes.  This high-quality environment supports vibrant local economies and communities.  

National Parks are administered by individual National Park Authorities. 

The Chilterns and Cotswolds AONBs are each administered by a Conservation Board. 

Each National Park Authority/ AONB Conservation Board is managed by an executive of permanent staff with oversight from members. Members make decisions about the actions that each National Park Authority/AONB Conservation Board should take to deliver its purposes.

There are typically between 18 and 30 members, either appointed by Defra’s Secretary of State, or elected by local authorities or parish councils.

The executive carries out the necessary work to run the National Parks/AONBs and support and advise the members. Staff include professionals such as ecologists, archaeologists/ heritage experts, rangers, planners, and education specialists.

Defra encourages National Park Authorities/ AONB Conservation Boards to maximise funding from a range of sources to supplement the grant they receive from Government.

Introduction from the Secretary of State

Dear Candidate,

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Secretary of State appointed member of a National Park Authority or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Conservation Board. There has never been a more exciting time to be involved with our National Parks and AONBs.

As a Secretary of State member, you will help to identify new opportunities to achieve the Government’s commitment to protect 30% of our land by 2030, and our net zero target. You will also have an important role in championing diversity and inclusion, particularly identifying ways to improve access to our protected landscapes by all parts of society. These landscapes belong to everyone, so we need National Park Authorities and Conservation Boards that reflect our nation.

Delivering these ambitious goals requires passionate and committed people across the protected landscapes family. In recognition of this need, I am seeking enthusiastic and dedicated strategic thinkers who will proudly serve the protected landscapes to ensure they are conserved and enhanced for future generations. Each protected landscape is unique: we require members who can respect local needs while encouraging a coordinated and collaborative approach to national objectives.

If you have the knowledge, skills and experience required to support the nation’s National Parks and AONBs, I look forward to receiving an application from you.

The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Role description

The overall role of a member is to contribute to the leadership, scrutiny, and direction of the National Park Authority and further the statutory purposes. Members are not representative of any organisation or group and have a duty to act in the best interest of the Authority on which they serve. Certain ineligibility criteria apply to these posts.

The key functions of a member are to:

·         Ensure the National Park Authority/AONB Conservation Board furthers its statutory purposes which are described on page 5 of the candidate pack. 

·         Agree plans that ensure the Park/AONB is a nature rich place that is available to all parts of society, contributes to thriving local communities, is valued as a national asset for its special qualities.   

·         Represent the Authority/ Board through collaborative working with external stakeholders at a national and local level, including other National Park Authorities and AONB teams. 

·         Agree appropriate policies to meet statutory duties and participate in collective decision making. 

·         Encourage a creative, experimental and innovative culture, where risks are appropriately managed. 

·         Guide the development of policy and business plans by participating in activities as required including meetings, committees and working groups. 

·         Scrutinise and monitor performance, including providing constructive challenge and oversight of governance. 

·         Ensure there is effective and efficient governance and management in place. 

·         Provide leadership and strategic direction towards national priorities.   

·         Utilise broad knowledge and skills, to manage local and national interests, ensuring the national interest is taken fully into account. 

The statutory purposes of National Park Authorities are to: 

Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.

Promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the public.

When National Park authorities carry out these purposes, they also have the duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Parks. 

The statutory purposes of AONB Conservation Boards are to:

Conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the AONB. 

AONB Conservation Boards have a further responsibility to increase the public understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area of outstanding natural beauty. 

When AONBs carry out these purposes they also have the duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the AONB.  

The Sandford Principle

If there is conflict between the purposes for National Parks and AONBs they are both required by statute to place greater weight to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the park, a concept known as the ‘Sandford principle’.

Application and selection process

How to apply

All candidates are required to complete the following forms:

  • Monitoring form 1 (Conflicts of interest conduct and advertising Questionnaire)
  • Monitoring form 2 (Diversity Questionnaire)

Candidates should submit their CV with education, professional qualifications and employment history and the names and contact details for two referees, together with their statement of suitability.

The statement of suitability should give evidence of the strength and depth of your ability to meet the essential criteria for this role. Please provide specific examples to demonstrate how you meet each of the criteria (max two pages please).

Your CV and statement should be returned to the following address by the closing date: 12.00 (midday) on 20 February 2023. Email to quoting reference APPT04_22.

For further information please email:

Overview of the application process

Public appointments are made on merit following a fair and open competition process which is conducted in accordance with the Governance Code for Public Appointments. We will deal with your application as quickly as possible and will keep you informed at key stages. We aim to conclude the appointment process within three months of the deadline for applications – this is in accordance with the Governance Code.

The assessment process

  1. Ministers are responsible and accountable to Parliament for the public appointments made within their department. As a result, they must be consulted at every stage of the appointments process.

  2. An Advisory Assessment Panel (“Panel”) is appointed by Ministers to assist them in their decision making. The role of the Panel is to decide, objectively, which candidates meet the eligibility criteria for the role.

  3. At the shortlisting meeting the Panel will assess applications against the eligibility criteria and decide which candidates have best met the criteria, who should be recommended for interview. Ministers will then be consulted on the Panel’s recommended shortlist. If you have applied under the Disability Confident Scheme and you meet all the essential criteria, then you will also be invited for an interview.

  4. Once the shortlist has been agreed by Ministers, you will be advised (by e-mail) whether you have been shortlisted. Those shortlisted will be invited to an interview.

  5. The Panel will meet again to interview candidates and determine who is appointable to the role. The Panel may invite you to make a brief presentation at the start of the interview and will go on to question you about your skills and experience, including asking specific questions to assess whether you meet the criteria set out for the post. The Panel will also explore with you any potential conflicts of interest or any other issues arising from your personal and professional history which may impact on an appointment decision.

  6. Details of the panel’s assessment of interviewed candidates are provided to Ministers, including whether they have judged a candidate to be appointable to the role. It is then for Ministers to determine merit and decide who should be appointed. In some circumstances, Ministers may choose not to appoint any candidates and re-run the competition.

  7. Ministers may choose to meet with candidates before deciding the outcome. Candidates should therefore be prepared for a short time gap between interview and a final appointment decision being made. Candidates who have been interviewed will be kept informed of progress.

  8. Once the decision on the appointment has been made, interviewed candidates will be advised of the outcome of their application, including whom they may approach for feedback. Successful candidates will be issued with their Terms & Conditions and a letter of appointment should they agree to take up the position.

Further information about appointments, including tips on applying, can be found on our guidance pages on

Advisory Assessment Panel (AAP)

Siôn McGeever - Deputy Director for Access, Landscapes, Peatland and Soil – Panel Chair -Departmental Official

Kris Nursiah -Deputy Director, Accountability and Governance - Panel Chair - Departmental Official

Helen Dolphin MBE - Mobility consultant - Independent Member

Joyce Fraser OBE - Founder and Chair of Black Heroes Foundation - Independent Member

Eligibility criteria

In general, you should have the right to work in the UK to be eligible to apply for a public appointment.

The Government expects all holders of public office to work to the highest personal and professional standards. 

You cannot be considered for a public appointment if:

  • you are disqualified from acting as a company director  (under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986);

  • have an unspent conviction on your criminal record;

  • your estate has been sequestrated in Scotland or you enter into a debt arrangement programme under Part 1 of the Debt Arrangement and Attachment (Scotland) Act 2002 (asp 17) as the debtor or have, under Scots law, granted a trust deed for creditors.

When you apply, you should declare if:

  • you are, or have been, bankrupt or you have made an arrangement with a creditor at any point, including the dates of this. 

  • you are subject to a current police investigation.

You must inform the sponsor department if, during the application process, your circumstances change in respect of any of the above points. 

When you apply you should also declare any relevant interests, highlighting any that you think may call into question your ability to properly discharge the responsibilities of the role you are applying for. You should also declare any other matters which may mean you may not be able to meet the requirements of the Code of Conduct of Board Members (see Outside interests and reputational issues section below)
If you need further advice, please email:

Security clearance

The successful candidate will be required to undertake Baseline Personnel Security Standard checks in line with the Civil Service guidelines. Additional Security Clearance may also be required for certain roles. However, where this applies, candidates will be notified during the appointment process. Further information on National Security Vetting can be found on the website here.

Additional information for candidates

Equality and diversity

We encourage applications from talented individuals from all backgrounds and across the whole of the United Kingdom. Boards of public bodies are most effective when they reflect the diversity of views of the society they serve and this is an important part of the Government’s levelling up agenda.
We collect data about applicants’ characteristics and backgrounds, including information about people’s educational and professional backgrounds, so that we can make sure we are attracting a broad range of people to these roles and that our selection processes are fair for everyone. Without this information, it makes it difficult to see if our outreach is working, if the application process is having an unfair impact on certain groups and whether changes are making a positive difference.
When you submit your application, your responses are collected by the Cabinet Office and the government department(s) managing your application. The data is used to produce management information about the diversity of applicants. You can select “prefer not to say” to any question you do not wish to answer. The information you provide will not be seen by the Advisory Assessment Panel who review applications against the advertised criteria and conduct interviews.

Disability confident

We are a member of the Government’s Disability Confident scheme. We use the Disability Confident scheme symbol, along with other like-minded employers, to show our commitment to good practice in employing people with a disability.
When you apply you will have the opportunity to select if you would like your application considered under this scheme.

Principles of public life

Holders of public office are expected to adhere to and uphold the Seven Principles of Public Life. These are:
  1. Selflessness - Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
  2. Integrity - Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
  3. Objectivity - Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
  4. Accountability - Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
  5. Openness - Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
  6. Honesty - Holders of public office should be truthful.
  7. Leadership - Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour and treat others with respect. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

Code of conduct for board members

The Government expects all holders of public office to work to the highest personal and professional standards. In support of this, all non-executive board members of UK public bodies must abide by the principles set out in the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies. The Code sets out the standards expected from those who serve on the boards of UK public bodies and will form part of your terms and conditions of appointment.

Management of outside interests and consideration of reputational issues

Holders of public office are expected to adhere and uphold the Seven Principles of Public Life and the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies. Before you apply you should consider carefully: 
  • any outside interests that you may have, such as shares you may hold in a company providing services to government; 
  • any possible reputational issues arising from your past actions or public statements that you have made; 
  • and/or - any political roles you hold or political campaigns you have supported; 
which may call into question your ability to do the role you are applying for.
You will need to answer relevant questions in relation to these points when making an application. Many conflicts of interest can be satisfactorily resolved and declaring a potential conflict does not prevent you from being interviewed. If you are shortlisted for an interview, the panel will discuss any potential conflicts with you during that interview, including any proposals you may have to mitigate them and record that in their advice to ministers. Alongside your own declaration, we will conduct appropriate checks, as part of which we will consider anything in the public domain related to your conduct or professional capacity. This may include searches of previous public statements and social media, blogs or any other publicly available information. The successful candidate(s) may be required to give up any conflicting interests and their other business and financial interests may be published in line with organisational policies. 
Details of declared political activity will be published when the appointment is announced, as required by the Governance Code (political activity is not a bar to appointment, but must be declared).

Status of appointment

As this is an office holder appointment, you will not become a member of the Civil Service. You will not be subject to the provisions of employment law.

Appointment and tenure of office

Appointments are for the term set out in this advert, with the possibility of re-appointment for a further term, at the discretion of Ministers.  Any re-appointment is subject to satisfactory annual appraisals of performance during the first term in the post. There is no automatic presumption of reappointment; each case should be considered on its own merits, taking into account a number of factors including, but not restricted to, the diversity of the current board and its balance of skills and experience. In most cases, the total time served in post will not exceed more than two terms or serve in any one post for more than ten years

Pension and redundancy

This is an office holder appointment and does not attract any benefits under any Civil Service Pension Scheme. You will not be eligible for redundancy pay as you are not an employee. No other arrangements have been made for compensation upon the end of your term of appointment because an office holder who is appointed for a limited duration would have no expectation of serving beyond that period.

Application feedback

We will notify you of the status of your application. We regret that we are only able to offer detailed feedback to candidates who have been unsuccessful at the interview stage.

How to complain

We aim to process all applications as quickly as possible and to treat all applicants with courtesy.
Please contact the  in the first instance if you would like to make a complaint regarding your application. They will acknowledge your complaint upon receipt and respond within 15 working days.

Data protection

The Cabinet Office will use your data in line with our privacy policy.

Contact details

Interviews expected: Week commencing 27 March 2023

Contact details:

Chilterns AONB CB

Deirdre Hanson: 01844 355500

Exmoor NPA

Judy Coles: 01398 322250


Cotswolds AONB CB                         

Andy Parsons: 07703 717986 

Dartmoor NPA

Kevin Bishop: 01626 831004

North York Moors NPA

Judith Seaton: 01439 772700

South Downs NPA

Richard Sandiford: 01730 819357