IT boasts some of the country’s prettiest villages, is home to around 20,000 historical and archaeological sites and has England’s largest continuous tract of heather moorland.
But, according to a new report, the North York Moors National Park is losing tourists, its “brand” and identity are unclear, traditional skills are being lost and hundreds of heritage buildings are crumbling away.
The 120-page report, a management plan for the next 15 years and beyond, includes a list of “aspirations” such as attracting another 1m visitors over the next few years.
It also has many targets up to 2017, including:
Creating another 300 hectares of woodland and 150 hectares of species-rich grassland.
Restoring 600 hectares of ancient woodland, planted with conifers.
Reducing the number of Scheduled Ancient Monuments at risk by 65.
Removing 35 listed buildings from the at risk register.
The building of 75 affordable homes.
Under aspirations, the report says that the land could accommodate another 6,000 moorland sheep and produce a five per cent increase in crop yields.
The report follows research which asked how much a rural area could deliver without compromising the things that make it special.
A Park Authority spokesman said: “The plan spells out traditional goals to protect the Park’s special qualities at the same time as supporting targeted extra food production, more visitors and more renewable energy.
“The plan also includes long-term aspirations for rural jobs, affordable homes, superfast broadband, water quality and flood prevention.”
One idea is the creation of ‘super highways’ for wildlife which would allow species to spread.
“Super highways are important for all kinds of plants and animals, such as the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly, lizards and water voles.
“They are patches, strips and corridors of good habitat that join up our most wildlife-rich gems, so that all species can spread and cope better with whatever challenges they may face in future.”
The Authority’s chief executive Andy Wilson said some ideas in the plan could be delivered without spending money.
“The plan shows that we can have a park that’s better for the wildlife and better for the people who live in it.”
He added: “The Park produces a lot of the public’s needs but it could produce more – set within clear limits.
“The environmental possibilities are very significant. We could have more woodland, as long as it is planted in the right places, and many more flower-filled meadows, abuzz with bees. We should make the Park much more joined up and create wildlife super highways for all kinds of plants and animals including hedgehogs, butterflies, and frogs.”
Ecological scientist Professor Sir John Lawton, who supports the management plan, said: “These ambitious plans to make space for nature, whilst ensuring productive use of the land for farming, flood-control and other purposes and at the same time ensuring that more people have access to these wonderful wild spaces, are all exactly what I and my panel had in mind, and the National Park Authority are to be congratulated for their vision and foresight.”
Sir John’s panel wrote the report Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological networks for the Environment Secretary.
The plan is on the Authority’s website at www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/management-plan