Disappointment as protection bid stalls for Hockney Country

The picturesque village of Wold Newton in the Yorkshire Wolds
The picturesque village of Wold Newton in the Yorkshire Wolds
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A BID to make the Yorkshire Wolds an area of outstanding natural beauty has hit a brick wall “and may not get going again.”

Protecting the area immortalised in the paintings of David Hockney from the spread of wind farms has been one of the key drivers for campaigners, who say without it, it will be “open season” for developers.

However Natural England has told East Riding Council that there is no “realistic prospect” of funding becoming available in the near future.

Last year the body encouraged the council to put in a bid, but now says they will be concentrating on areas which want to tweak existing boundaries. A dozen areas submitted expressions of interest, just two of whom – including the East Riding – were bidding for new Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

There are currently 38 AONBs in England and Wales ranging from moors to water meadows.

Created by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949, they represent 18 per cent of the country’s finest countryside and are designated because of their flora, fauna, historical and cultural associations as well as scenic views.

Coun Symon Fraser said: “We sought an update because it seemed strange that we hadn’t had an answer to our expression of interest.

“We got an e-mail back which we were quite surprised about. It’s disappointing that Natural England seems to be taking a very long time to even consider making a decision and even more worrying that they would appear to be back-tracking on their previous invitation to apply for this status to be granted. I fear very much that this has stalled and may not get going again.”

The last area to be given the designation was the Tamar Valley in 1994.

In an e-mail yesterday Natural England told the council “the current economic and political circumstances (means) there are no realistic prospects of resources becoming available to fund new area of outstanding natural beauty management partnerships.”

East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight said he would be seeking a meeting with Defra Minister Lord De Mauley, saying it was an “entirely unsatisfactory” situation. He said Natural England had displayed a “bizarre sense of priorities” by looking at boundaries of existing areas, and not honing in on the areas without protection.

“Their whole attitude seems to be dilatory to the extent of it being a dereliction of duty,” he added.

“There doesn’t seem to be the appetite or will to take this further and designate new areas which most people would be forgiven for thinking that was what they were there to do.”

He said East Riding Council would take on the cost rather than the Government of mapping the area and deciding where it would finish and start

The chairman of the No to Wolds Wind Farm Group, Steve Hey, who amassed more than 1,000 signatures supporting the designation of the Wolds, said the council had been trying since around 2007 to get support but Natural England “always got a block put on.”

He said: “For around seven years according to documents I have under freedom of information they have been ‘trying to develop a strategy.’

“If it was seven months it could be acceptable but this is taking the mickey.”

Natural England said their new “evidence-based” approach to new designations was still being developed. A statement said they would make a decision later this year once they had the “right evidence.”

The legal process could take three years and could involve a public inquiry.