Caution urged as Yorkshire's National Parks are 'not ready for the return of tourism'

Signs made by local residents in Malham to deter visitorsSigns made by local residents in Malham to deter visitors
Signs made by local residents in Malham to deter visitors | jpimedia
The chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire has advocated a cautious approach to the return of tourism in Yorkshire.

James Mason warned that some rural communities are 'not yet ready for the return of tourism' following the latest government advice on travelling for exercise in open spaces.

The guidelines, clarified on Monday afternoon, state that 'people can drive to outdoor open spaces at any distance away as long as they observe social distancing guidance' and mix only with those from their own household - and car parks in the Yorkshire Dales National Park will now be open again.

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"In March we asked people to stay away from our many beauty spots (coastline and countryside) to prevent the spread of Covid- 19. We welcome the road map to recovery BUT with caution. Please respect that these communities are not yet able to cope with tourism," said Mr Mason.

It comes as former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who is now MP for South Lakeland in the Lake District National Park, wrote to the prime minister urging limits to be put on the number of visitors to National Parks.

Farron specifically mentioned the Yorkshire Dales in his open letter, and expressed fears that 'thousands' of tourists could descend on both regions, making social distancing in areas such as car parks and picnic spots impossible.

Rural governing bodies fear that infection rates could spike again among their elderly populations if an influx of visitors from cities is allowed again.

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Although cafes, restaurants and pubs in National Parks will still remain closed indefinitely, it is unclear whether accommodation providers will be allowed to take bookings again and their owners have been urged to behave responsibly.

Whitby Town Council urged visitors to stay away from the coast and reminded the public that all tourism-related businesses are still shut. Car parks and public toilets maintained by the council also remain closed.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority released a statement in which they said they disagreed with the latest government policy and would have preferred a phased 're-opening' of the countryside.

Car parks managed by the authority will re-open, as will toilets following a deep clean.

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Chief executive David Butterworth said: “This is not the approach we were advocating. Since late April we have been in discussions with Defra about the ‘re-opening’ of the countryside and we, along with many organisations with countryside facilities, have advocated a staged approach with an initial ‘stay local’ message to avoid unnecessary travel and minimise any tension between visitors and local communities.

“However, that message has not prevailed and, as a public body, we are still expected to deliver the government’s message and manage the situation as professionally and sensitively as we can. We will therefore be opening the Authority-run car parks from today and will strive to open toilets as soon as possible; they will be deep cleaned and have new cleaning regimes implemented. By making this decision we’re seeking to mitigate the parking by visitors in village centres and on verges.

“Our message to visitors and residents over the next few weeks is around respect”.

Visitors have been asked to exercise within their physical limitations to prevent health emergencies, respect wildlife and the environment, remain a safe distance from homes, schools and farms, keep within household groups and refrain from gathering in villages.