The northern Howgill Fells will be brought into the Yorkshire Dales national park

The northern Howgill Fells will be brought into the Yorkshire Dales national park

The organisation that represents hillwalkers and climbers in England and Wales said spending cuts could threaten the extension to two national parks announced today.

The British Mountaineering Council said it heartily welcomed the Environment Secretary’s green light to enlarging the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, but cautioned spending restraints may delay the implementation.

Conservative secretary of state Liz Truss said the area covered by the Yorkshire Dales national park is set to expand by nearly a quarter while the Lake District national park will increase by three per cent – extensions totalling 188 sq miles.

The BMC said it will wrap up what broadcaster Eric Robson described as ‘one of the great bits of unfinished business in the British countryside’, bringing the Orton Fells, the northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang into the Yorkshire Dales and two new areas including the eastern Borrowdale, Birkbeck Fells Common and Sizergh Fell into the Lake District.

Due to be implemented in August 2016, the extensions will mean the two great northern national parks almost touch, separated only by the M6 corridor in the Lune Gorge.

The council said: “The BMC heartily welcomes the decision by Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to approve the plans, but hopes the process of putting them in place is not further delayed by decisions announced in the 25 November spending review.

BMC access and conservation officer Catherine Flitcroft said: “This decision is great news for outdoor enthusiasts, local residents and wider society.

The two national parks will be separated only by the corridor carrying the M6 and West Coast Main Line through the Lune Gorge

The two national parks will be separated only by the corridor carrying the M6 and West Coast Main Line through the Lune Gorge

“These extensions are particularly welcome because they encompass landscapes that should rightfully have been included in the parks from the beginning, correcting anomalies like half of the Howgills being contained in the Yorkshire Dales national park but not the other, or the fact that the wonderful limestone pavement of the Orton Fells was missing.

“In the Lake District, it is right that places like the ‘other’ Borrowdale are now set to be included.

“However, we are concerned there is a risk the plans could be delayed by details to be announced in the 25 November spending review. Implementing these plans will cost money and we hope the government does not take decisions which could impact on this, or other outstanding projects like coastal access in England.

“National parks represent some of the best ‘value for money’ in public spending. English national parks alone contribute around £4.1bn to £6.3bn to the economy, equivalent to the aerospace industry, but only cost about £50m to run.

“They also reduce the pressure on the health service by providing inspiring environments for healthy lifestyles, and provide untold intangible benefits to the wellbeing and culture of society.”

The proposals were first mooted by Natural England back in 2012, leading to a public consultation in which 90 per cent of the 3,000 respondents supported the plans. Objections from local councils led to a public inquiry, and the decision of the inspector to recommend the extensions.

The BMC said Liz Truss’s decision gives the governmental green light to the plans, but the legality of the orders can still be challenged by making an application to the High Court.

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