The Howgills: half in, half out of the national park

The Howgills: half in, half out of the national park

The public has given an emphatic thumbs-up to the enlargement of two of England’s national parks.

But councils were lukewarm in their view of bigger Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks.

A campaigning body said the local authorities should take notice of the results of the public consultation, in which residents and other members of the public showed their clear support for plans to extend the Lake District eastwards and the Yorkshire Dales westwards.

Natural England’s board has now agreed to move to the next stage of public consultation on possible extensions of the two national parks.  There will be a further consultation on revised boundary changes and on an environmental report.

Members of the public were asked if they favoured extending the areas covered by the two national parks in four areas, to the East and South of the Lake District and to the West and North of the Yorkshire Dales. They were also asked if they wanted the Orton Fells to be brought into a national park, and if so, which one.

More than 70 per cent of those who submitted their views were in favour of each of the four areas joining the national park family, with residents also strongly in favour.

Opinion on which park the Orton Fells should be in was divided, with 45 per cent viewing the Yorkshire Dales as preferable, and 39 per cent the Lake District. Overall, 68 per cent wanted the area to be in a national park.

These results contrasted with the views of parish, district and county councils, which were ambivalent to the plans.

Ruth Chambers, deputy chief executive at the Campaign for National Parks, welcomed the findings. She said: “It’s good news that there is such strong public support for the extension of these national parks but then that’s hardly surprising given the stunning landscapes that are being discussed – areas like the northern Howgills, Mallerstang and Borrowdale in Westmorland are all of undeniable national-park quality and represent unfinished business from the 1950s, when the park boundaries were first devised.

“The sooner that the national park extensions can be completed the better so that the areas can begin to enjoy the benefits that national park designation brings.”

But Ms Chambers was critical of the authorities in the areas, which she said were out of step with those who lived in the areas proposed for the extensions. She said: “We are concerned that despite the high level of public support the county and district Councils were generally not supportive of the proposals.

“We hope that the councils’ views will more closely reflect those of their electorate as the boundary extension process progresses.”

The present boundaries have many anomalies, particularly in the Howgills where the range of fells is half in the Yorkshire Dales national park and half out of it, as the boundary follows that of the old West Riding of Yorkshire which was the authority when the national park was established.

In November last year, the Lake District chief executive said: “I very much look forward to hearing the outcome of [the consultation] because there are some fantastic landscapes over in the eastern side of the Lake District that, in my view, are deserving of national park status.

And Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority chair Carl Lis gave his blessing to the enlargement as long ago as December 2009. 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.

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