“Development isn’t banned in national parks,” Defra Secretary Liz Truss speaks out on Dales expansion

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NATIONAL park status shouldn’t comprimise life for people living and working in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the Secreatary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Liz Truss, has told the Yorkshire Post.

The Government announced today that it will expand the Yorkshire Dales National Park to include parts of Cumbria and simultaneously extend the Lake District National Park, to create an almost continous zone of protected landscape.

Following consultations and a public enquiry held over the past few years, the final plan will go ahead in 2016.

For those concerned about tough new planning rules and farmers worried about now having to manage highly protected land, Ms Truss said there should be no disruption to daily life, and that for many it will be enhanced.

She said: “Development isn’t banned in national parks, it’s all about having development that fits with the landscape.”

She said the Wensleydale Creamery cheese making business in Hawes was a perfect exmple of a thriving modern business space within a protected landscape.

She said: “I’m sitting in Wensleydale Creamery in a modern office but it’s in a traditional style building that fits in with the national park. The national park has a high rate of accepting planning applications but they are in line with the ethos of the park.”

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Up to 11% of new land incorporated in the expanded Yokshire Dales National Park, actually falls in neighbouring Cumbria and Lancashire.

The new areas to come under the park are Orton Fells, northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang, Barbon, Middleton, Casterton Leck Fells, River Lune and Firbank Fell.

People living in those areas will have to apply to the national park authority for planning permission for new schemes, which has a higher weighting than local authorities to the protection of the natural landscape.

Tougher planning rules may however be welcomed by some groups living in the countryside, as it now becomes more difficult for wind-farm and large scale energy developments to get planning permission.

Andrew Sells, chair of Government advisory body Natural England, told the Yorkshire Post today: “Clearly, it’s a fact that it’s harder to get planning consent in a national park.

“That isn’t to say that there won’t be development, but the landscape has higher protection that it did before so it makes it harder to get consent.”

Ms Truss said that businesses are advantaged by being able to use the new park status to help boost tourism and use the name and landscape as a way of marketing products - particularly within the food industry.

While she said it was impossible to put a ‘precise’ figure on economic benefit to the Yorkshire Dales economy, she said it would run into the many millions a year.

She said: “I want to see more food businesses and that would enhance farmers’ incomes at the same time as selling their produce.”

Farmers living in newly designated national park areas can also take advantage of Defra’s new nationwide countryside stewardship scheme worth £3bn over the next five years, she added.

She said: “That’s available to land owners in the national park to use and improve the land as well but there are a variety of sources of funding.”

However she couldn’t rule out further spending cuts to the national park budget in the upcoming Autumn statement as part of the Government’s plans to reduce the deficit.

She said: “We have been able to protect national park funding relatively over the last financial period. National parks are doing more to generate their own income. Tourism brings in a huge amount of income to a local area but I am working with the national parks to make sure they are thriving in the future.”