A county council has said it will fight ‘tooth and nail’ proposals to extend the national park boundaries in its area.
Cumbria County Council said the plans were anti-democratic and pandered to those who ‘see Cumbria as a nice place to holiday rather than somewhere to live’.
The vow came in the wake of Natural England’s announcement yesterday that it would recommend to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman that part of Cumbria be taken into the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks.
Councillor Tim Knowles, the county’s cabinet member responsible for environment, said the extension of the national park is anti-democratic, will make housing even less affordable for local people, and risks undermining key national infrastructure projects for the county.
“I have grave concerns about Natural England’s proposals,” he said. “We have here an organisation based in Sheffield making recommendations about Cumbria which go against the opinions voiced by all of the democratically elected local authorities in Cumbria.
“At what point will local voices be properly heard in this consultation?
“Extending the boundaries of the national parks will be handing over responsibility for countryside access and planning to unelected members, thus creating a democratic deficit.
“Natural England claim the changes will ‘ensure that these special landscapes are looked after for future generations to enjoy’ but I fear that, if you’re a young person living in Cumbria and hoping to be able to one day buy a house here, then the creeping footprint of the national park is going to make that impossible.
“We have a very productive and positive working relationship with the national parks, particularly the Lake District National Park Authority, so our argument is not with them.
“It’s with the people who see Cumbria as a nice place to holiday rather than somewhere to live and have a sustainable economy. These are already beautiful and unspoilt areas under the current system, we don’t need to throw another ring of bureaucracy around local people for no reason. The county council will fight these recommendations tooth and nail.”
Natural England, the Government’s advisory body on the outdoors, recommended extending the two national parks yesterday, removing the anomaly of having only half the Howgill Fells in the Dales national park. Other areas proposed for inclusion in the new Dales area are parts of the Orton Fells; Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang; Barbon, Middleton, Casterton and Leck Fells; the River Lune and part of Firbank Fell and other fells to the west of the river.
The proposed variation to the Lake District National Park includes an area from Birkbeck Fells Common to Whinfell Common; and to the south an area from Helsington Barrows to Sizergh Fell, and part of the Lyth Valley.