Government plans for National Parks must include access

  • Contributor information: CNP

4 April 2018

In the last of our  #NationalParksforall series, John Grogan, MP for Keighley, calls for updated plans and changes to National Park Authorities to improve public access. 

The clue is in the name. Next year will be the 70th Anniversary of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Strangely when the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published their eight-point plan for the National Parks in 2016 to be implemented in the period up to 2020 not one prominent mention was made of access and transport.

There is room in the summary on the Departmental website for the importance of getting young people and Britain’s diverse population to the National Parks but no reference as to how that might be achieved. If public transport was meant to be encouraged it was a love that dare not speak its name. The plan must now be to persuade the Government to update their eight-point plan when it comes up for renewal shortly.

Come to think of it a ten-point plan trips more neatly off the tongue. My additional two would be the aforementioned Access and Public Transport together with Diversity in Governance. Is it surprising that public transport from the areas of the country once known for ‘their dark satanic mills’ to our National Parks gets so little emphasis when hardly any members of the National Park Authorities live in the metropolitan areas? 

John Grogan MP with supporters of the DalesBus in the Yorkshire Dales.

The recent report from the Campaign for National Parks on this subject has changed the political weather. The two key recommendations get to the heart of the matter aiming to change the stark statistic that 93% of visits to our National Parks are made by car: 

• National Park Authorities should take a strategic lead on improving sustainable access to their National Park.

• National Park Authorities and other relevant organisations should provide high-quality, consistent and up-to-date information on sustainable travel options.

Together with an insistence that men and women from our great cities take their place on the National Park Authorities these proposals would change the whole culture of our countryside. I look forward to the day when a directly elected Mayor of God’s Own County of Yorkshire has the power to make direct appointments on to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. 

I am fortunate enough to sit on the Select Committee for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I shall certainly be arguing that in the next twelve months we have at least one session on the future of our National Parks. I hope by the end of this Parliament every National Park Authority is devoting significant resources to funding public transport and not continuing to pretend that this is somebody’s job.

John Grogan MP

Member of Parliament for Keighley