Countryfile Magazine - - Contents - By Louise Tickle

Are the rules of de­vel­op­ment in our na­tional parks fit for pur­pose?

We all love vis­it­ing the marvel­lous land­scapes of our most pres­ti­gious pro­tected ar­eas – but some peo­ple liv­ing there ar­gue that tight plan­ning reg­u­la­tions can limit their prospects and lives. How are the needs of in­di­vid­u­als bal­anced against the con­ser­va­tion re­quire­ments of na­tional parks? BBC Coun­try­file Mag­a­zine in­ves­ti­gates...

Our na­tional parks cover 10% of Bri­tain’s land. In many parts of the world, na­tional parks are re­mote wilder­ness ar­eas barely trou­bled by hu­mans or in­dus­try. But in Eng­land, Wales and Scot­land (there aren’t any in North­ern Ire­land), many na­tional parks are home to sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­la­tions of per­ma­nent res­i­dents.

The parks also play host to more than 100 mil­lion vis­i­tors ev­ery year, drawn to the breath­tak­ing beauty of their coasts and land­scapes. The tourism spend is over £500 mil­lion pounds a year – so vis­i­tors clearly love the spe­cial qual­i­ties of the na­tional parks in which they hol­i­day.


Vis­i­tors de­mand high stan­dards, but lo­cals need homes they can af­ford, as well as schools, jobs and ser­vices.

De­spite the spe­cial plan­ning pro­tec­tions within na­tional park bound­aries, the cur­rent na­tional push for more hous­ing, em­ploy­ment and im­proved in­fra­struc­ture sets up nearir­rec­on­cil­able ten­sions be­tween those who see a need for de­vel­op­ment and those urg­ing con­ser­va­tion of unique and frag­ile en­vi­ron­ments. In re­cent years, sev­eral con­tro­ver­sial ma­jor de­vel­op­ment projects have been ap­proved that cam­paign­ers ar­gue trade eco­nomic ben­e­fit for ir­re­me­di­a­ble dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment.

This in­creas­ing pres­sure on na­tional parks comes de­spite leg­is­la­tion stat­ing that if there is a con­flict be­tween con­ser­va­tion and peo­ple’s en­joy­ment of the area (this in­cludes the need for hous­ing, em­ploy­ment or tourism), then pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment wins out.

“The leg­is­la­tion and poli­cies are fit for pur­pose, but the in­ter­pre­ta­tion is not what I’d ex­pect” Pro­fesser Lynn Crowe, Sh­effield Hal­lam Univer­sity

Pro­fes­sor Lynn Crowe of Sh­effield Hal­lam Univer­sity is the lead au­thor of a re­cent re­port on the im­pact of ma­jor de­vel­op­ment in na­tional parks, com­mis­sioned by the Na­tional Trust, Cam­paign for Na­tional Parks and the Cam­paign to Pro­tect Ru­ral Eng­land. Pro­fes­sor Crowe con­cludes that in prac­tice, “the leg­is­la­tion and poli­cies are fit for pur­pose, but the in­ter­pre­ta­tion is not what I’d ex­pect.”


Na­tional Parks Eng­land ap­proved 90% of all plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions made last year: the gen­eral av­er­age across Eng­land was 88%. Look­ing at ma­jor de­vel­op­ments alone, 79% were ap­proved, vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to the 80% ap­proved across Eng­land. Pro-con­ser­va­tion groups are hop­ing that the Gov­ern­ment will re­in­force its com­mit­ment to na­tional parks’ strin­gent le­gal pro­tec­tions in its much-an­tic­i­pated state­ment on plans for the next 25 years of the na­tional en­vi­ron­ment.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of Northum­ber­land Na­tional Park, Tony Gates be­lieves the “ma­jor de­vel­op­ment test” – that a de­vel­op­ment needs to take place in the na­tional park and not any­where else – is be­ing ap­plied ef­fec­tively. “No de­vel­op­ment in a na­tional park would not be the right bal­ance, and nor

would in­ap­pro­pri­ate de­vel­op­ment,” he says. “What we have to look out for is ‘death by a thou­sand cuts’. I think we can get the bal­ance right and we must get it right for the health and well­be­ing of our so­ci­ety.” Turn the page for in­di­vid­ual views...

A tim­ber-frame new­build un­der­goes con­struc­tion in the ru­ral area of the Lake District Na­tional Park, Cum­bria

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