Wild Boar Fell, Cumbria, would be included in an enlarged Yorkshire Dales nationa park

Wild Boar Fell, Cumbria, would be included in an enlarged Yorkshire Dales nationa park

More bits of Cumbria could find themselves in the Yorkshire Dales under a planned expansion of two northern English national parks.

Natural England, the Government’s advisory body on the natural environment, announced it would start consultations on the enlargement of both the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales parks. The consultation will run until mid March next year.

Natural England is proposing to extend the Dales boundary to include the northern Howgill Fells and Wild Boar Fell and the Mallerstang fells, all of which lie within Cumbria. Also due for inclusion in the Yorkshire Dales are the Cumbrian Middleton Fell, Barbon Fells, Firbank Fell – the site of Fox’s Pulpit, a Quaker landmark, the lower fells between the River Lune and the M6, and Leck Fell which is in Lancashire.

The Birkbeck Fells and Whinfell, west of the M6, would form part of an enlarged Lake District national park, including the eastern Borrowdale, site of a failed bid to build a holiday eco-village. A small extension south-west of Kendal would take in Helsington Barrows, Sizergh Fell and the Lyth Valley. The M6 and the West Coast Mainline would then run through a narrow corridor effectively separating the two national parks.

Orton Fells, the upland limestone plateau through which Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk passes, could find themselves in either of the two national parks.

There is undeniable logic in including the whole of the Howgill Fells in a national park, the compact range of distinctive hills that form a discrete group and which were sliced arbitrarily in half administratively by following the old West Riding of Yorkshire boundary when the Dales national park limits were initially drawn up.

Poul Christensen: unique opportunity

Poul Christensen: 'unique opportunity'

Poul Christensen, chair of Natural England said: “It is fitting that, 60 years since the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act came into being, we have a unique opportunity to look at a major expansion of two of England’s most cherished protected areas.

“We are looking to consult as widely as possible on these proposals to ensure that an extension to the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks can work with the people and businesses of the area and deliver the many public benefits that people are entitled to expect from national-park designation.”

The final say will lie with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs – currently Hilary Benn.

The consultation must decide if the land in question has the qualities for inclusion in a national park, and if so, where the boundaries should be drawn. Natural England has chosen the detailed areas on the grounds of their natural beauty and opportunities for open-air recreation.

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chair Carl Lis has already given his blessing to the enlargement. He said: “As an authority we are very much in favour of expansion.

“Certainly in the Howgills we can’t see why not. The people in the Lake District will have the same on their extension eastwards. I hope it happens, but I hope they handle it properly and that people are fully kept in the picture and are allowed to make their comments. Certainly, we don’t want to give the impression of being heavy handed.”

However, the Country Land and Business Association said the national park status could hinder rural business diversification.

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