YP Comment: Protecting our national parks - Harmful effect of funding cuts

The ruins of Byland Abbey in the North York Moors National Park.
The ruins of Byland Abbey in the North York Moors National Park.
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This region’s national parks are among our greatest treasures, beloved of visitors and residents alike. Sadly, that degree of affection does not appear to be shared by the Government, which stands exposed as having slashed the amount of funding the parks have received over the past five years.

This is indicative of a blind spot about the value of the parks on several levels that is shared with previous governments which have been similarly tight-fisted about allocating sufficient funds. There appears to be a disturbing mentality in Government circles that areas such as the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors will somehow look after themselves, and that the rural economy which underpins the fortunes of the parks is deserving of less support than urban areas.

That is plainly not the case. The national parks are carefully managed and unless adequately funded, they will undoubtedly suffer. Proof of this became clear earlier this year, when it emerged that landowners and volunteer groups were having to shoulder an additional burden in order to maintain the network of footpaths in the parks.

To deny the parks a realistic level of funding is misguided. The millions of visitors to the Dales and Moors every year make a massive contribution to Yorkshire’s tourism economy.

Those who live and work in the parks also play a vital role in our region’s prosperity. For sound economic reasons alone, the Government needs to rethink its attitude towards these precious landscapes and acknowledge that continuing year-on-year cuts in budgets hampers their ability to generate wealth for the country.

And there are also unarguable environmental and social reasons for funding the parks properly. They are havens for wildlife and good for the health of visitors. Neither should be put in jeopardy because of penny-pinching.

Unlit streets - Hazards of lighting policy

TURNING off or dimming street lights may save hard-pressed councils a modest amount of money, but this comes at a potentially serious cost to both motorists and residents.

How widespread this practice has become in Yorkshire is revealed today by figures showing that more than 100,000 lights are off or dimmed, which represents a huge increase on five years ago. In North Yorkshire, alone, more than 50 per cent of street lights are turned off between midnight and 5am.

This is a worrying development. Darkened streets are hazardous, as the AA points out, citing that 11 people have died in accidents where inadequate lighting was a factor. Unlit streets also increase both the risk and the fear of crime. Nervousness about venturing out safely at night is an issue of real concern for many elderly people, and that anxiety is only increased if the pavements and roads are not well lit.

Financial pressures on local authorities have resulted in many hard and unpalatable choices being made in order to save money, and a reduction in street lighting is one of them. A laudable desire to reduce carbon emissions is another factor. But gloomy streets do not make for an appealing environment in either urban or rural areas, and if they put motorists and pedestrians at risk, as well as making residents unsettled about going out after dark, then consideration needs to be given to saving money by other means.

Low-energy lighting is now a feature of most homes, and the AA’s suggestion that councils follow suit in illuminating the streets to both cut bills and emissions is an avenue worth pursuing.

Great champion - Nicola Adams keen to help young

BOXING is amongst the hardest of all sports, and yet its redemptive power to lift underprivileged young people out of deprivation is its most compassionate quality.

That was a theme of Yorkshire’s double Olympic gold medal boxer Nicola Adams’s guest editorship of Radio Four’s Today programme yesterday. Her own background of growing up in Leeds was not easy, and her keenness to broadcast what her sport can do for the young does this great champion credit.

Equally admirable was her concern to highlight the support that boxing needs to offer those who enter the ring. Her interview with fellow champion Ricky Hatton, in which he spoke about suffering from depression and attempting suicide was both revealing and moving.

It is the hallmark of all great sporting figures that they inspire others to follow their example and achieve glory. In Nicola Adams, boxing has the finest ambassador it could wish for.