Self-declared South Pennines Park covering swathes of West Yorkshire including Haworth, Keighley and Ilkley to launch after area was rejected for National Park status in 1940s

An “alternative National Park” covering swathes of West Yorkshire including most of Calderdale has been launched.

The South Pennines Park covers 460 miles of land in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester including Stoodley Pike in Todmorden

The South Pennines Park covers 460 miles of land in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

The area is not recognised as a National Park by the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra).

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But the Park’s founders say the newly designated area offers a “flexible operating blueprint for managing the landscape that gives people a significant voice.”

The blueprint for the self-declared park has been set up by Pennine Prospects, who are working in partnership with councils in the area, as well as Natural England, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, the National Trust, transport providers and other communities and conservation groups.

Organisers say the collaboration could support key projects on flood protection, tourism, transport, heritage, and conservation.

Areas of Yorkshire included within the park’s boundaries include Hebden Bridge, Keighley and Ilkley.

It also includes the area surrounding Haworth known as Bronte Country.

Helen Noble, Chief Executive of Pennine Prospects, to be renamed South Pennines Park, said: “The need for a park was absolutely clear because the South Pennines Park region needs a champion at national level to fight for it, protect it and seek sustainable investment.

“Over eight million people live within 30 minutes of the park and more than 660,000 live in it — twice the population of all the English National Parks put together. It is an area of stunning scenery; a spectacular ever-evolving landscape that has been moulded and shaped by the people, the packhorses, footsteps of yesteryear; rich in industrial and cultural heritage.

“What we are launching is an exciting, bold and forward-thinking vision for one of the UK’s most diverse and unique regions.”

Organisers said the new park could contribute towards the Government’s levelling up agenda and help restore the natural environment of the area.

The idea was first discussed in the 1940s, as part of the report by Sir Arthur Hobhouse which spawned the creation of both National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).

But it was decided that the industrial heritage of the area made it unsuitable for National Park status.

In 2019, a Government review led by journalist Julian Glover called for a National Landscapes Service body to be set up to bring National Parks and AONBs together, and encouraged a wider range of non-designated systems of landscape protection.

The South Pennines Park plan was particularly singled out for praise, suggesting that it should be used to link the Peak District to the Yorkshire Dales, and called for the National Parks to support it.

Ms Noble said: “We are bringing together communities, public and privates sector bodies and other stakeholders and together we have a shared vision for the South Pennines Park and we are all committed to working tp together champion the area.

“As well as bringing together communities in the South Pennines we are also talking to Government and MPs about our approach.

“Without the park each body is left to compete against each other for funding.

“This approach means they can pool resources and drive collaboration in key areas like conservation, tourism, transport and hospitality. But a common thread for all our partners is ensuring we connect people to nature.”

A launch event for the new Park will take place at Kala Sangam Arts Centre in Bradford tomorrow with a performance by folk duo O’Hooley and Tidow.