No further improvement of rights of way will take place

No further improvement of rights of way will take place

Bus services, guided walks and recreation activities for youngsters will be cut under plans revealed by a national park authority.

And 18 jobs will be lost if the proposals, drawn up in the face of an effective 31 per cent cut in funding by the coalition Government, are approved by members of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

Open access work under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act will be pared to cover just the legal minimum obligations of the authority; there will be no further improvement of the rights-of-way network in the national park and review of the definitive maps of the area will be handed to county councils.

A public consultation on the proposals has opened, with a deadline of 10 March.

Authority members approved a draft budget that will see public grants for leisure buses abolished and the Go Dales scheme to offer outdoor activities to disadvantaged young people ended.

Education development and activities, other than low-key visits to local schools, will also be axed, along with 12 work programmes.

Authority chair Carl Lis, who is also a Conservative district council member, said: “We are facing a reduction in our grant from Government, excluding the impact of inflation, of £1.43m or 25.3 per cent over the next four years. Once inflation is added into these figures, the actual cut is nearer £1.9m – or 31 per cent.

“The authority is legally responsible for conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the national park and for promoting opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area by the public.

“We also recognise the huge economic impact the national park has on the area, locally and regionally

“This reduction in our budget has meant that we have had to rethink drastically our role now and in the immediate future and, unfortunately, it will mean staff redundancies and the scrapping of some of the work we do so that we can continue to provide our key services to a high standard.”

Three of the redundancies will be compulsory, with 12 other posts the subject of voluntary redundancy agreements.

Mr Lis continued: “The authority has carefully considered a range of options and developed proposals that would meet the required budget cuts, while trying to deliver the statutory purposes of a national park authority.

“Now we want to hear what the public thinks about the proposed changes to our services, and the impact they may have on the environment, local communities, and the use and enjoyment of the national park via an online consultation survey.

“All comments received by 10am on 10 March will be taken into account before the final financial decisions are taken by authority members on 29 March.”

Members of the public can take part in the consultation by visiting the authority’s website.

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