We call on the Government to demonstrate its commitment to protecting National Parks

We call on the Government to demonstrate its commitment to protecting National Parks

Last year the world’s largest potash mine in the North York Moors was granted planning permission. If the mine goes ahead, this huge development will disfigure the landscape, negatively impact on wildlife and cause an increase in HGV traffic during its construction. It is predicted it could result in a 13% reduction in visitor numbers and could cause a loss of £35 million in direct tourism expenditure per year. 

Construction of HIgh Newton Bypass © Friends of the Lake District

We can’t have another potash mine

In order to investigate the effectiveness of current planning policies and identify whether changes are needed, with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and National Trust we commissioned Sheffield Hallam University to look at over 70 historic planning applications for major development in, and close to, National Parks.

The findings were clear - even though National Parks have the highest level of planning protection, the Government’s drive for economic growth has led to a number of inappropriate major developments being granted permission both within the Parks and in their settings.

The current threats to National Parks from major development

Next to an ancient woodland in the South Downs National Park there is an application for oil extraction.

The Lake District National Park, which is currently bidding to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is at risk of new pylons and power lines as well as a new nuclear power station that are proposed just outside of the Park boundary but within its setting.

  It is essential the Government confirms that protecting our National Parks from inappropriate, damaging development remains a national priority. Our National Parks are special because of the beautiful landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage they contain and the recreational opportunities they offer. But they are also important to the rural economy and have a huge potential to help improve our nation’s health and wellbeing. These assets must be protected and enhanced for future generations to enjoy and benefit from - Ruth Bradshaw, policy and research manager at Campaign for National Parks

There are proposals to significantly widen roads that cut through the Peak District and South Downs National Parks.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is at risk from increased quarrying activities as well as a large holiday complex on the south west edge of the Park.

Finally, the threat of fracking is looming over the South Downs, Exmoor, North York Moors and Peak District National Parks. Last year the Government voted to allow fracking below depths of 1,200m in National Parks. This will mean that not only will the Parks potentially be affected by substantial developments in surrounding areas, but energy companies could also drill beneath the Parks.

In our new report we call for National Parks to be safeguarded by:

- The Government to reconfirm its commitment to National Parks in the forthcoming 25 Year Plan for the Environment by clearly stating how they will ensure their long-term protection and enhancement. It is also essential that protections for nature are maintained after the UK leaves the European Union.

- National Park Authorities to develop local plan policies that set out clearly how the protection against major development should be applied in their National Park.

- Natural England to take a more active role in ensuring that National Parks are effectively protected from major development. This should include producing an annual update setting out how the major development test is being implemented and providing guidance or training for National Park Authorities to address any issues identified.

Although at the moment the report only focuses on England, we’re working with partners to develop recommendations for the National Parks in Wales.

Keep up to date with our fight in protecting the Parks, by signing up to our e-newsletter now or become a friend here.

Keswick, Lake District © Stuart Smith Photography/Shutterstock

To see the full report, National Parks - Planning for the Future click here.

To see the evidence report by Sheffield Hallam University click here.