National Park status ‘would inflate house prices’

Proposals to extend the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Parks in Cumbria would lead to more problems with affordable housing, according to the county council.

Cumbria County Council's Cabinet has formally opposed proposals from Natural England and other campaign groups to include the Orton Fells in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and also extend the boundaries of the Lake District National Park in a number of areas.

Natural England's plan is the second attempt to increase the footprint of the eastern and southern sides of the Lake District and western and northern boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales in Cumbria. A first set of proposals was originally laid out last year and the county council rejected those on similar grounds. Now the second wave of consultation has seen seven additions and one deletion near Kirkby Lonsdale to the previously proposed extensions.

The key change is that Natural England is now proposing that Orton Fells should not become an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but instead should be part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The proposals involve the shift in planning and countryside access functions away from the council to the national park authorities. The changes would also affect rural communities and the wider Cumbrian public in a number of ways, including:

The likely limitations on housing growth and the implications for delivering housing in the Orton Fells area, where five villages have been identified as key local service centres.

The likelihood of affordable housing for those on low incomes becoming an even bigger problem, given the market premium attached to houses in or near national parks.

The potential negative impact on plans to improve the National Grid infrastructure and the high speed rail link in the M6 corridor through the Lune Gorge.

The increased democratic deficit, where decisions currently dealt with by elected county or district councillors would be taken by unelected members of the national park authorities.

Cllr Tim Knowles, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet member for the environment "We have a very productive and positive working relationship with the national parks, particularly the Lake District National Park Authority. Therefore we have not just dismissed these proposals out of hand, instead we have given them close and careful consideration.

"However, the council strongly feels that it cannot support the proposed extension of the boundaries, given the negative impact that this would have on communities and that fact that it is taking decisions out of the hands of the people that Cumbrians have democratically elected. These are already beautiful and unspoilt areas under the current system, we don't need to throw another ring of bureaucracy around local people for no reason."

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