Comment: Where is the money for Yorkshire Dales plan?

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National Park extension approved - but no funding guarantees from Minister

THE decision to extend the Yorkshire Dales into Lancashire and Cumbria should be a cause for celebration. It is already Britain’s most celebrated National Park and the Government is clearly hoping that there will be a significant increase in tourists visiting the area. Yet, while the decision by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss not to tinker with the park’s iconic name will be welcomed by all, there are two major misgivings which the Minister did little to address when making the landmark announcement.

The first concerns the stewardship of the land in question. As a result of this designation, the planning rules will become more stringent. However, as the Country Land and Business Association point out, some development will be essential if these remote countryside communities are to survive and thrive – rural areas, however idyllic, will simply fade into rack and ruin if they’re allowed to become timeless museum pieces.

And the second relates to funding. Like the rest of the public sector, the National Parks have not been immune from the spending squeeze and there are fears that they will take a further hit in George Osborne’s forthcoming pruning of the public finances. How can the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which has already implemented a 38 per cent budget cut, be expected to manage another 188 square miles of cherished landscape without the resources to do so?

Judging by the complacent tone of the Minister’s comments – Ms Truss simply said “I’m in discussions about this” – they have every reason to fear being short-changed by a politician whose handling of the rural economy has rarely inspired confidence. And that will be a shame. For the reason the National Parks are one of this country’s greatest assets is because of their beauty and careful stewardship down the centuries. And, if this is compromised in one area because of funding cuts, the reputation of the whole network will suffer. That must never be allowed to happen. Over to you, Secretary of State.