Answers needed for extended park plan

  • Contributor information: CNP

Dorothy Fairburn, Regional Director for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) North, looks at potential challenges with the Lakes to Dales extension. The CLA represents around 6,500 landowners, farmers and rural businesses.

From August this year, hundreds of farmers and rural businesses on the border between Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire will enter a brand new era as they begin living and working in a national park.

Under plans to extend the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks, the largest seamless stretch of protected landscape in England will be created. Much has been made of the significant economic boost that the areas will receive from the new designation – particularly for tourism related businesses. There is no doubt that farmers and other landowners across the Dales and Lakes have benefited from diversification involving tourism. They are the entrepreneurs that provide shopping, food, accommodation and other leisure activities that attract visitors into this beautiful region.

And while we very much hope that new opportunities will be found in the park extension areas, the CLA is concerned that some rural businesses could suffer under the more stringent planning regulations that will inevitably be imposed upon them. 

We share the ambitions of boosting rural growth and caring for our landscapes, but we are clear that the flexibility for change – which is critical for a modern, working countryside – should not be stifled. Tougher planning rules and other regulations in national parks can inhibit rural enterprise, ultimately at the expense of people who derive their living from the land.

The CLA lobbied long and hard to introduce new permitted development rights for farmers, which effectively allow them to convert redundant agricultural buildings in to much needed workspaces or new homes without having to go through the full planning process. These rights do not apply within the national parks and so farmers and land mangers now included in the designation are faced with a much more costly and time consuming process should they want to embark on a diversification project.

In the short term, there is also significant concern about those businesses, previously outside the park, with existing planning permission for development. Should they push ahead and rush through the development before August or can they count on the national park to honour the approval, which in many cases would have taken considerable time, effort and funding to achieve? We urgently need clarification as to whether these planning approvals will be upheld or if farmers and land managers will be forced to go back to square one.

It is heartening to see that the national parks are listening to our concerns. For example, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is introducing a new policy that allows residential conversion of some roadside barns, but we need to ensure that these policies translate in to a constructive working relationship at ground level. CLA members take their stewardship of the land seriously and responsibly, demonstrating high quality conservation and public benefits that run hand in hand with their commercial farming and forestry management. What they need is an environment in which they can work productively with local planning officers to offer goods and services that benefit the region.

The Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks have an urgent job to do to show that they are willing and able to work together with local farmers and landowners, and to show that they have clear plans for how they will deliver on all the opportunities that have been promised.

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