National Park Extensions? Please, Not Yet!

by David Murray on 4 June 2013

in Lake District NP, National Parks, Opinion, Yorkshire Dales NP

Hearings on the proposed extensions of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks start today.

I wrote most of the following on my personal Facebook account earlier this morning and then thought I should put it here too, even though I’m aware that it might well lead to losing some friends.

I love both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, and because of this I’m very doubtful about the wisdom of extending the two national parks.

To name but one issue, property prices will almost certainly rise significantly, both in the parks themselves and in the areas adjacent to their new boundaries, making it even more difficult for local young people to afford to live here. How many local shops and schools will close?

At the same time the proportion of homes bought up as holiday homes will increase. I’m not here talking about rental properties that are occupied for a significant part of the year. Managing and caring for these as part of the tourism sector does provide some local employment, although they can become a problem if they form too high a proportion of the local housing stock. I mean those owned by individual families and occupied for just a few weeks or even weekends each year and otherwise locked up unused for months on end

Then again, whilst planning regulations are important they can also be counterproductive when applied unintelligently. Local families and businesses will discover that changes to their properties will become considerably more expensive. Projects that would have been feasible, and with zero or negligible environmental impact, will either be abandoned or made marginally viable due to overweening bureaucracy, elevated and expensive construction standards, delay and cost. This is not theory; this is the past experience of so many.

Until the legal terms of reference of national parks are updated to take far greater account of the economic prosperity and social wellbeing of local communities I am opposed to the extension.

Both park authorities do, of course, make some effort in this direction. Under their present constitutions, however, it seems to me that there will always be the danger of bias towards fundamentalist and anti-human environmentalism. Emotionally driven populist campaigns will frequently prevail unless there is a stronger legally backed obligation on the park authorities to give greater weight to the prospering of local people. Agendas aimed at turning these beautiful regions back to some imagined, romantic ecological and landscape utopia are dangerous. Local people are part of the landscape, not a dangerous “invasive species” as so often they appear to be viewed.

National Parks do some great work, both the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales need protection, but the balance needs to be changed.

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