Queen’s Speech: Yorkshire national park residents promised elections

NATIONAL park residents could soon have the chance to directly elect the people that take key decisions that impact on their lives.

Details of new 'greening' measures on farmland have been revealed by the Environment Secretary.

The Queen’s Speech included a draft Bill which would give the Government the power to order direct elections to national park authorities.

National park authorities have significant powers, particularly in the area of planning. Their members are usually made up of district and county councillors along with representatives appointed by the Government.

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Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron, whose South Lakes constituency sits in the Lake District National Park, claimed credit for the Bill after mounting a long campaign on the issue.

He said: “Our national parks should be democratically accountable - the communities affected by national park decisions are entitled to have their say over how those decisions are made.

“They should not be able to get away with opting not to be open to election.”

But the proposals received a cautious response in Yorkshire where both the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales authorities said they wanted to see the detail.

Jim Bailey, chairman of the North York Moors authority, said the public supported the current arrangements.

“I think we have got a lot of pressures such as funding and I am not sure there is a need to change structures when there is no outcry for it here.”

Mr Bailey said the current system ensures the park authority has good links with all the councils in the area while parish council representatives make it accountable to local communities.

“It is easy to see it as undemocratic but when you look at it it’s surprisingly democratic,” he said.

Mr Bailey welcomed measure in the same Bill which would relax the rules on who parish councils can nominate to sit on national parks.

Currently, the individual has to be a parish councillor but if the Bill becomes law parish councillors could nominate someone else from their community.

A Department for Rural Affairs spokesman said: “Elections to the boards of National Parks would give residents within parks a more direct say in how they are run. We are looking at holding trials to see how this would work in practice and will publish draft legislation in due course.”