National parks must strike a fine balance
10:20am Saturday 28th May 2011 in Comments
It’s 62 years since the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act guaranteed the preservation of the nation’s most valued landscapes and kept major development out.
Thirteen have been established since the first National Park was opened in the Peak District in 1951, including the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Just last month saw the creation of the South Downs National Park, taking in 600 square miles of rolling countryside across Sussex and Hampshire.
A recent report by a countryside campaign group is a timely reminder of the fragility of the countryside in a crowded country that relies on the infrastructure of roads, pylons and housing that can easily destroy a precious landscape.
According to the survey many British people think the countryside is boring. They go as far to say they would never visit it and, perhaps not so surprisingly, would have trouble identifying its wealth of flora and fauna if they did.
However there is support to create more national parks and anything that protects our most beautiful and valued landscapes is appealing.
Yet the countryside is not a museum. Much of it is a working environment, but it is the decline in rural jobs that drives local people away. The more land there is under national park regulation, the more it is subject to all-encompassing controls that go far beyond building and planning.
The principles that underpin the national parks are good. But six decades on from the act that set them up, it is pertinent to ask whether they still provide a proper balance between conserving the countryside and allowing people to work and thrive in it.