Countryside needs more than ‘serving tea and scones’ in new national park

Colmers Hill near Bridport in Dorset
Country Land and Business Association says nobody who lives and works in the countryside wants to see another national park - Graham Hunt/Alamy Live News

The countryside is not there to “serve tea and scones” to visitors, rural business leaders have said after plans for a new national park were announced.

Countryside business representatives have criticised plans for the new park in England and said they would rather see a push towards a “dynamic” rural economy.

Victoria Vyvyan, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 rural members, said that “nobody” who lived and worked in the countryside wants to see another national park.

She further demanded that the Government review how national park authorities function and how their boundaries are fixed.

It comes after Rishi Sunak last week announced the plans for a new park in England, with a number of sites under consideration, including Dorset and the Cotswolds.

The Welsh Government is also considering creating a fourth in the Clwydian Range, in the north-east of the country.

Vyvyan said at the CLA’s annual conference: “The governments of England and Wales need to challenge themselves about why nobody, and this is not said lightly, who lives and works in the landscape wants a new national park.”

She told attending businesses and landowners: “I think they need to radically review what constitutes an effective National Park Authority. I think they need to review how they fix its boundaries.

“And I think most of all, they need to consider how we can run dynamic 21st-century businesses in a national park rather than condemning us to change beds and sell tea and scones, possibly with a pinny and an occasional courtesy to the visitors.

“We want to be part of a dynamic economy,” she added.

The new national park forms part of the Government’s final response to a 2019 review that criticised how such protected landscapes were managed and funded.

Speaking to The Telegraph afterwards, Ms Vyvyan said that the “parameters” of such areas should be looked at “before we put another malfunctioning national park in place”.

‘New park needs full buy-in from residents’

“Let’s look at who’s on the National Park authority because at the moment, it’s 90 per cent council representatives who don’t live in the national park. You have one or maybe two representatives in the park, so you’re not going to get buy-in from everybody when you’re in that situation.”

She added: “If we’re going to make a new national park, let’s make it an exciting project, which actually has full buy-in from all the people who live in the park.”

There are currently 15 national parks in the UK, each with its own separate authority. National park authorities do not own all the land in the parks.

A Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesman said: “National parks support rural economies through a thriving visitor economy, partnerships with farmers, and the creation of green jobs – however, before designation of any national park an objective, rigorous and robust assessment is made.

“This includes a requirement for statutory consultation with all county and district councils within the land area to be designated and a wider 12-week public consultation, allowing for more rigorous evidence gathering.”

When the plan for a new park was announced, Defra said: “The search for a new national park – a manifesto commitment – will begin in the new year. This will be focused on looking for England’s most beautiful nature spots, alongside the area’s ability to connect people with nature.

“This comes alongside new funding for England’s most special places, with a further £15 million pledged to support our existing national parks and national landscapes, helping to support our most iconic landscapes. The Government has also published the final response to the Glover Landscapes Review, which sets out how we will make these precious sites fit for the future.”

Farmers ask for more funding support

At its conference the CLA also called for a budget of at least £4 billion a year for farmers in England to support the agricultural sector.

The Government is committed to spending an average of £2.4 billion a year in the farming sector.

Ms Vyvyan said: “There’s concern and confusion but there’s also excitement in the farming sector. Things are changing, and for the next generation that means opportunity.

“I want the current Secretary of State and the Farming Minister to make absolutely sure that there isn’t any money left in the pot next year – we need every single penny of that money.

Steve Barclay, the new Environment Secretary, and Steve Reed, the shadow environment secretary, also attended the conference.

Mr Barclay announced in his first address as the Environment Secretary that a further £45 million would be directed towards funding innovation, including around £15 million in roof-top solar equipment to boost sustainability.

He added: “Farming is at the heart of meeting our ambitions to meet our climate change targets and safeguarding nature. We are taking action on the things that matter to you.”

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