THE Yorkshire Dales is facing a growing dilemma over tackling climate change while ensuring that the world-famous landscapes remain open to as many visitors as possible, the National Park’s chief executive has warned.
David Butterworth claimed that while the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has no official remit on climate change, there had been major policies put in place by the organisation which has helped it attain carbon neutral status.
However, he maintained that officers had to recognise there were still significant issues, particularly with the majority of visitors arriving by car.
The authority has taken great strides to tackle carbon emissions and has been carbon neutral since 2014, although Mr Butterworth said a review is needed to look at the Dales as a whole.
With about 95 per cent of the Dales owned by farmers and landowners, he said there was a huge opportunity for upland farming to play a major role in reducing carbon emissions and addressing bio-diversity.
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Mr Butterworth said: “It is really exciting, but to make it happen we need to the Government to follow up on its pre-Brexit policy of paying land managers for public goods which include measures to tackle climate change, flood management and air quality.”
He stressed that while it will take a change in mindset to fulfil these ambitions as well as producing livestock and crops, it was a way of helping create a sustainable future.
But one of the biggest disruptors to the bio-diversity of the Dales has been measures which were put in place historically, which are now recognised as being harmful to the landscape and creating problems which impact on the environment.
Mr Butterworth said: “The biggest impact on bio-diversity has been through national land management policies such as putting in grips (drainage ditches onwet areas of heath and blanket bog) which have led to flooding and draining peatland which has meant the loss of carbon capture.”
Tackling these problems and bringing the peatland back into good condition helped the authority achieve its carbon neutral status in 2014. A switch to green energy as well as creating eco-friendly buildings has reduced the authority’s carbon footprint by 60 per cent.
“The board is now pushing for us to do more and we will be presenting them with a report outlining plans for carbon negativity,” Mr Butterworth said.
He also said that the authority wants to be an organisation that had gone beyond what it needs to do, and a sustainability development fund has been drawn up to allow leaders behind local projects to apply for finance. Recent projects which have been given funding include glamping pods, guidebooks and natural flood management measures.
But the Friends of the Dales charity has warned the growth of the lucrative tourism sector has also led to congestion and pollution as well as a rise in demand for holiday homes.
The long-standing issue of second home ownership has prompted widespread concerns over the future of rural communities, with many young families priced out of the villages where they grew up. The number of second homes in the Dales stands at nearly 25 per cent of all properties, compared to just three per cent in other parts of the country.