Westmorland and National Park Expansion

by David Murray on 22 February 2012

in Cumbria, Lake District NP, Opinion, Westmorland, Yorkshire Dales NP

Google just now served me a link to an LDNPA document, dated today, discussing alternatives for the Park authority’s position on the extension of national park boundaries, and in particular the proposal from Natural England that substantial parts of Westmorland should be incorporated into the Yorkshire Dales National park. I see that the Park authority meeting was to be held today, so maybe I’d be better leaving any comment until I see their decision on how to respond to this issue. On second thoughts I’ll comment briefly before discovering the outcome.

The Flag of Westmorland

The Flag of Westmorland

Firstly, it has been my position all along that I can see no justification for any extension of the Park boundaries at all other than simply to satisfy the expansionist aspirations of Natural England. I have seen no persuasive arguments. They and the two Park authorities claim, of course, that there is additional beautiful landscape that needs protection. But what evidence is there that the existing arrangements have caused a problem? Have the elected County Council and District Councils failed in their duty to protect these areas? Are they covered in out-of-context developments?

Admittedly the more remote areas often feel ignored and neglected by their existing authorites (as well as by the tourist board) but if this is the reality then surely a more sensible response would be for central government to give the district and county councils a kick up the rear rather than imposing another layer of unelected bureaucracy on the local populace.

Protect Westmorland From Further Dismemberment

Having said that, if expansion has to go ahead I find it almost beyond belief that extensive areas of Westmorland should be placed under the control of an authority based on the other side of the Pennine watershed in Yorkshire. Westmorland is an ancient historic entity. It lost much of its identity by its administrative county being merged into Cumbria but its further dismemberment surely must be resisted.

If the Orton Fells, with areas stretching almost to Kirkby Stephen and Appleby-in-Westmorland, are to be in any national park they should be kept, along with the more westerly parts of the old county, in the Lake District. Historic identity matters.

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