Boosting the economy of the North York Moors has been set as a priority for the coming years as the national park’s authority looks to build on its public profile.
Chief executive Andy Wilson, setting out the authority’s focus in its annual report, highlighted three key aims – raising the park’s profile, increasing wildlife corridors and involving more young people.
Faced with a 40 per cent loss in central government funding, the authority has in recent times been focused on diversifying sources of income, he said, but added that it had been a successful year despite a “rapidly changing policy framework” and concerns about securing the National Park’s protected environment.
“Our main aim is to allow people to enjoy the park in a good way, which doesn’t impact on residents and destroy the environment they come to visit,” said Mr Wilson.
“The moors, as a national park, is a park of refreshment. It’s a peaceful place.
“As the pressures in the rest of the country become greater, the North York Moors becomes more important as a place which is relatively free from that. It’s value to society grows as the rest of the country gets busier.”
The annual report sets out projects which are already under way and details the park authority’s priorities, top of which is to boost its profile, aiding the hundreds of small businesses in the area and the 25,000 people who live here.
“We’ve got three big priorities for the year ahead,” said Mr Wilson. “Continuing to increase the profile of the park, so that more people can enjoy it and encouraging more people to visit and to understand the park; increasing the wildlife corridors, and super-highways through the park and involving more young people in the park.”
One item in the four-year programme is to step up its successful apprenticeship scheme for countryside workers, developing age-old rural environment crafts and skills.
The authority has also been working with travel companies and partners such as Welcome to Yorkshire to increase visitor numbers, Mr Wilson added, as well as working closely with film companies to try to get films located in the park. Inevitably, he added, funding issues linking back to central government reductions did impact on what the park could offer, but it had seen many successes in securing new strands of income.
“We’ve been adept in trying to replace that money – sometimes that means we have to charge people,” he said.
“We’ve been economising – inevitably, to some extent, it means we do end up doing less.”
One casualty of the decline in funding had been a bus network linking the area to places further afield, but smaller networks were now in place, Mr Wilson explained.
A number of initiatives were under way, the report revealed, to broaden the authority’s income base.
The include large-scale Heritage Lottery-funded programmes and the establishment of the North York Moors National Park Trust.
“Our tourism numbers are going up,” said Mr Wilson.
“We are looking to extend the season, so that more people are coming in winter months and not just the summer.”
Successes for the park have included securing a £3.8m Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership, known as This Exploited Land of Iron.
One of the first schemes to benefit has been the £77,000 repair of a landslip at kilns in Rosedale on the line of the old Rosedale Railway.
In addition, some £55,000 has been allocated to restore ancient hedgerow at Kettleness near Whitby and 11 conservation grants were given to six conservation areas, with works including replacing plastic windows with traditional timber windows to match original designs.