Councils join fight to defeat threat to the Dales

AN ALLIANCE of key local authorities is raising a "chorus of opposition" to block proposals to extend the Yorkshire Dales National Park's boundaries.

They fear that the hugely contentious plans to incorporate part of Lancashire and more of Cumbria into the national park could see the iconic name of the Yorkshire Dales lost forever.

Richmondshire District Council is the latest local authority to voice its concerns and join a growing wave of opposition to the boundary extensions proposed by Natural England.

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A motion put forward by Coun John Blackie, one of the fiercest critics of the proposed extensions, was given unanimous support by members during a full council meeting in Richmondshire on Tuesday evening.

Coun Blackie, who also represents North Yorkshire County Council on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: "There is now a raft of key organisations within the Yorkshire Dales National Park which have voiced their strong opposition to the proposed boundary extensions.

"This is a loud, clear and above all else unified protest which is demanding that Natural England takes account of the views that are being expressed. It is a clarion call - the momentum is gathering pace and there is now a chorus of opposition."

Both North Yorkshire County Council and Craven District Council have already called on Natural England to ditch the scheme.

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It announced plans at the end of last year to include a series of beauty spots in Cumbria and Lancashire within the boundaries of the park.

The county council's leader John Weighell has condemned the consultation by Natural England as "unnecessary and extravagant" and stressed the county council had strong reservations because the proposed new areas do not share the "distinctive landscape and cultural character" of the Dales.

Coun Weighell also claimed that the consultation, including a 36-page glossy brochure and a dozen double-sided full colour maps, should not have been launched while public sector funding is under intense strain.

The Yorkshire Post revealed the fears earlier this month over dramatically increasing the size of the national park, which already covers 680 square miles.

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As well as fears the national park could be re-branded to accommodate the North-West, there are worries that local influence will be undermined as members representing Yorkshire Dales communities could be replaced by councillors from Lancashire and Cumbria.

Natural England's regional manager David Shaw stressed he welcomed the "wide-ranging and forthright debate" about the boundary extensions to the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Park.

He added: "With only three weeks to go until the consultation finally closes, it is important that as many people make their views heard."

The consultation will continue until Wednesday, March 17, and the results will inform any decision that Natural England makes.