National park chiefs will not rest on laurels

THE Peak District National Park Authority is meeting or exceeding standards of service but needs to place more emphasis on facing its financial challenges, according to a new report.

An inspection of the authority was carried out in October on behalf of the Government, Audit Commission and the English National Park Authorities' Association.

Assessors examined services provided and surveyed parish councils, residents, conservation and heritage groups, recreation user groups, businesses, and the authority's own staff and members.

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The report awarded the authority an excellent rating for its conservation work and also said it was performing well at promoting the national park to the public.

But inspectors also pointed out several areas for improvement and warned that national park leaders needed to "provide leadership to guide the organisation and partners through challenging financial times."

The report praised for the way the Bakewell-based authority works with volunteers, engages with communities and businesses and also commended its leadership for the national park on reducing its own carbon emissions.

Narendra Bajaria, chairman of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: "We are delighted that the assessment team has recognised the passion and hard work of our staff and members and the results this brings for the national park.

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"The report also reflects the enormous contributions of a wide range of partners who help look after the national park. The assessors have made useful recommendations about improvements we can make as we enter a tough period of reduced budgets for us and our partners."

Mr Bajaria said the authority was "looking at suggestions for improvement made by the assessors and will publish an action plan in January 2011 to respond to their ideas."