National Parks Landscapes Review Call for evidence.
The Parish Council have prepared a response to the National Parks Landscapes Review Call for evidence. You can read this below. Living within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a suggestion of the area becoming a National Park, the results of this survey could effect you.
Details of how YOU can comment can be found here.
National Parks landscapes Review: Call for evidence. Response Submitted by Corfe Castle Parish Council.
Submitted response by Corfe Castle Parish Council, Purbeck
1-The Dorset AONB covers 44% of Dorset but the peninsula of Purbeck has a special quality. It has the first UK natural World Heritage Site and the particular quality of the Purbeck Heritage Coast has been recognised by the award of the Council of Europe Diploma for the Conservation of Protected Landscapes.
2-The area has large landowners and the National Trust who manage the land with sensitivity to its AONB status. However the area has particular development pressures. It is mineral rich and hosts the largest on shore oil field in Western Europe. It is dotted with active quarries for the renowned Purbeck Stone and ball clay. It has a large quarry for the crushing of Portland stone, which is currently seeking a major extension.
3-The area attracts 4 million visitor days a year and is heavily used by walkers including on the South West Coast Path and by cyclists. Roads to the coast are heavily congested in summer.
4-However investment has been insufficient to meet these pressures. There are too few safe off road tracks for cyclists and a high level of potential conflict with motorists. There has been considerable public investment in the Swanage Railway (a charitable Trust) but the railway has no capacity to subsidise trains e.g. to Wareham which could further reduce car traffic. Considerably more investment is required on park and ride and walking/cycling routes from the Norden car park if traffic is to be reduced on the peninsula. The area has less public transport than comparable coastal areas so that walkers cannot use public transport for starts and finishes of walks for many routes
Part 2 of questionnaire: Views
5-The AONB lead body in the area is Dorset County Council but severe financial pressures have meant that it is not able to pursue initiatives, which would alleviate visitor pressures. The Parish Council is not aware that AONB status has of itself facilitated additional resources for the AONB.
6-In part 2 questions are asked about how well AONBs play a role in for example conservation, access and recreation housing and transport. The experience of Corfe Castle Parish Council is that AONB status has generated few tangible benefits other than stricter planning controls.
7-There is therefore interest in a National Park designation if it could promote investment in the area to enhance its AONB qualities.
8-The major reservation about National Park is the loss of democratic accountability for major decisions over planning and investment. A National Park Authority Board does not have to seek re election and those who are Councillors have to serve the interests of the Park Authority and not their constituents. Suggestions are made in Part 4 about how to meet these concerns. The second reservation is that it is another layer of bureaucracy (and associated additional cost) just when areas are simplifying local government by creating unitary authorities. National park authorities create their own governance and back off services when these are already available in local authorities,
Part 3 of Questionnaire: Current Ways of Working
9-The Council is aware that other National Park areas have mixed reputations amongst their residents. In part 3 of your survey some questions are asked which may bring out how people feel but some questions could be more direct e.g. in the light of your experience would you now recommend National Park status to others? Do you feel the National Park Authority is responsive to resident’s concerns? And would you abolish your National Park Authority. The review team could commission some statistically significant polling on these issues.
Part 4 Closing Thoughts
10-In part 4 Closing Thoughts the review asks about the current designations of areas. In our view AONB is a mouthful, which does not carry the branding appeal of a National Park or have significant presence with residents. If there is to be a hierarchy of designations there could be National Parks and Regional Parks. Regional parks could have a degree of separate status, for example they could be administered as a statutory special committee comprising unitary (or County/District) and parish council representatives able to make policies on the planning framework and apply for say 75% grant aid from a national fund. This would retain ultimate accountability to local authorities and would be less expensive to administer.
Accountability of National Parks
11-The Parish Council believes that if a National Park is to be established with planning powers the residents in the Park area should directly elect the whole Board.
12-If direct election is not offered many areas will reject National Park status.
13-To improve existing accountability of National Parks there needs to be mechanisms, which make NP Authority members feel accountable to their residents. Suggestions include:
1-A Scrutiny role for the lead local authority in the area on the NP Authority with the ability to require information, refer policies back and to seek Secretary of State review in the last resort