CHARGING people who have infringed planning rules in a national park is one of the latest ways it is trying to raise money in the face of swingeing government cuts.
North York Moors National Park Authority’s chief executive Andy Wilson said they had become “more commercially aware” with services more focused on those that can raise money.
In a first for national parks, those who broke the rules, for example, building an extension without planning permission, were having to pay for the officer time involved in dealing with the breach.
Mr Wilson said: “Up till now people who have broken the rules have very rarely had to pay for it. It is a great irritant to people who follow the rules when someone doesn’t.
“Overall the impacts on our enforcement work are promising. It is concentrating people’s minds.”
Thousands of pounds have also been raised through a commercial tie up with air freshener Air Wick, to make a special range of fragrances representing national parks, while Sutton Bank Cycles is renting a room for their successful cycle hire venture.
The NPA is also expecting to raise £20,000 this year, up from £5,600 last year, by charging for pre-planning advice. Last year the park’s Inspired By gallery, events and education raised £56,000.
The park authority is close to setting up a separate charitable trust as a way of accessing new sources of funding.
Mr Wilson was speaking ahead of a meeting next Monday at which park authority members will weigh their options ahead of what is expected to be another round of government cuts.
Since 2010 its government grant has dwindled by 35 per cent, to £3.7m. Another five per cent of its budget has been lost in grants from local authorities and other sources.
Thirty-eight full-time staff have left since 2010 and funding has ceased for services including the Moorsbus Network, flood prevention and managing public rights of way.
However Mr Wilson said while they had become more “income conscious”, new sources of income would never plug the funding gap and they were limited by the fact they only own less than one per cent of the national park.
Around 25 per cent of their income comes from fees and charges, including parking fees, but he said they didn’t want to put off visitors.
He said: “Our car parking fees at the moment are very reasonable and we don’t want to deter people from coming here.
“Yes, we need to be dynamic and positive, but it does have its limits – we have lost 40 per cent of central government income and we can only replace a proportion of that.
“We are pushing and will continue to push income generation as hard and as imaginatively as we can but it can’t replace the scale of money we have already lost.”
He said the authority was now “less like a traditional public sector body; we deliver our work through a bigger mixture of volunteers, contractors, staff and members. I think we have become more flexible and more income conscious; we are becoming more commercially aware.
“We are smaller and more selective about the services we offer. The services are becoming more focused on those that can raise money.”