National Park wants more visitors in fewer cars

ONE OF Yorkshire’s prized national parks is facing a growing dilemma of how to contain traffic levels while attempting to boost visitor numbers and tap into the tourist market.

The North York Moors National Park. Picture: Mike Kipling
The North York Moors National Park. Picture: Mike Kipling

The discussion comes amid warnings in the North York Moors National Park’s annual report that members need to be aware of the impact climate change could have on the park unless urgent action is taken.

Caroline Skelly, the park authority’s planning policy officer, says increasing visitor numbers in a bid to support the local economy is a priority: “One of the three areas of aspirational change set out in the management plan is to attract an extra 1.6m visitors to the National Park.”

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The park’s management plan, was adopted in 2012 and sets out how it will be managed over the next 15 years. Ms Skelly said the latest draft figures for 2013 show visitor numbers are increasing.

However the authority’s annual report shows a pressing priority for the national park is balancing traffic levels with safeguarding its beautiful environment.

“One of the most pressing issues that the that the national park has to deal with is the steady increase of traffic generation and the reliance on the car in rural areas.

“Therefore the authority must continue to encourage both sustainable transport and development,” it says.

Park authority figures show there were 1.9m vehicles passing through the park in 2006 and 1.7m in 2012 but Ms Skelly said a counter which monitors traffic is currently broken and an alternative way to access traffic levels in the park is needed.

The comments come at a time when rural bus services are coming under increasing pressure because of budget cuts. The Moorsbus network was a victim of further cuts to funding - bringing total Government cuts to the authority’s budget to over 40 per cent in real terms.

However in a recent newsletter the authority said a new minibus outreach project will provide transport for those without a car to visit.

The report says the park will be affected by increased flood risk and storms, greater risk of moorland fires, loss of wildlife species and habitats and increased pressure on water resources.

“The National park needs to help reduce the threats of climate change through encouraging sustainable development and the use of renewable energy sources,” it says.