Dales Authority on National Park expansion: ‘We will listen to communities’

David Butterworth

David Butterworth

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The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has said it will “listen and learn” from local communities as it looks ahead to a major extension of its boundaries.

Plans announced today will see the national park grow by 24 per cent, with Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire share the largest area of almost continuous National Park in the country.

For Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chief executive David Butterworth, it is a decision that has been a long time coming.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “This matter has been going on since 1954, the year the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park were first drawn. Then, they were drawn not on the basis on the landscape, but on the political boundaries that existed at the time.

“In the north west, on the West Riding boundary, you could stand on the Howgills mountain ranges and have one foot in the National Park and one foot out.”

Around six years ago, Natural England carried out large local consultation with businesses and landowners, and carried out detailed examination of the landscape. Plans were drawn up for the expansion, and after five local authorities - Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire County Councils and Eden and Richmondshire District Councils - as well as many local farmers and landowners raised objections, a public inquiry began in 2013.

“The results of that have been sat on the Secretary of State’s desk for two years”, said Mr Butterworth.

“First of all, we are thrilled and delighted that these stunning landscapes are worthy of National Park status, but now is where the hard work starts.

“We need to listen and learn from the local communities, farmers, landowners and businesses to develop productive, long-term relationships. I genuinely believe that by working together we can make the most of this fantastic opportunity - for the landscape and the local economy.”

He said being placed in the National Park could be beneficial for some farmers reliant on agri-environment funding schemes, and could also help those areas to the eastern side of the M6 that have lost out in the past by not being included “in the Lake District brand”.

“We hope they can now take the opportunities given by being under the National Parks brand to boost their local economy,” he said.

“What my generation has done is create something that is not just for today, or next week, but provides a legacy for our children and grandchildren to cherish in future.”

In July, The Yorkshire Post reported how funding cuts to the organisation which runs the Dales National Park was under pressure from Government funding cuts.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has seen a 38 per cent cut to its government grant since 2010, to £4.07m.

Mr Butterworth said the Authority had made it clear that more resources would be needed to coincide with the increase in the park, so that existing funds were not “diluted.”

He said: “The Government has told us that it recognises that, but any future funding decisions will not be announced until the Spending Review in November.”

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