Reports from the meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) Full Authority meeting on March 29 2022. A large part of the meeting was dedicated to deciding on how to reply to the Government’s response to the Landscapes Review (Glover Review). The ARC News Service reports on the issues of the governance of National Parks and how these Authorities are supposed to have sufficient funding for the ambitious ideas mentioned in the Government’s Response. There are links to that Response and to other reports.
Governance: The chair of a National Park should be chosen by its members and not by the Secretary of State as proposed by the Government, the YDNPA chief executive, David Butterworth, told the meeting.
The Government has argued that appointing the chairs of National Parks by the Secretary of State, in line with Defra public bodies, could provide greater continuity, strategic direction and accountability. Mr Butterworth, however, commented “We think the chair should be elected by the body of the organisation.”
He and the members supported the Government’s suggestion to create a National Landscapes Partnership instead of a new statutory National Landscapes Service – a Government quango which would have been responsible for appointing all the members of National Park boards. The Government disagreed with that because of “the important role locally elected members play in giving the boards democratic legitimacy”.
The Landscapes Review had also proposed that the membership of every National Park Authority should be reduced to 12. The Government, in its Response, said that it might not be appropriate to cap membership of national park boards at 12 especially for those [such as the YDNPA] which are in areas with large numbers of local authorities. It stated: “Reductions should not be at the expense of the skills, expertise and diversity needed.”
Mr Butterworth pointed out that the YDNPA would lose four of its 16 members next year when new unitary councils came into being. He said there would be a formal paper put to members later on what the membership should be.
The consultation on the Government’s response continues until April 9 and Mr Butterworth commented: “The problem with consultations is they only ask questions they want answers to.”
Funding: At the Full Authority meeting officers and members frequently highlighted the need for sufficient financial support from the Government. Mr Butterworth stated:
“The Government’s response recognises that they are proposing an ambitious new vision for our Protected Landscapes and that the scale of the ambition must be matched by equivalent resource to ensure effective delivery. However, it goes on to state that there is limited scope to increase the core grant.
“The proposition is that the ambitious vision will be funded, to a large extent, through private sector investment and commercial income. The proposed National Landscapes Partnership will have a key role in securing this income.”
He continued: “There is no robust analysis of the financial implications of the Government’s Response to the recommendations contained in the Landscapes Review, but nor was there any financial analysis in the Review itself, other than it identified the need for a significant increase in resources for Protected Landscapes if its recommendations were to be realised.
“At the time this report was put together we still do not know our settlement for 2022/23 and beyond but if, as expected, it is flat cash then there is a gap between the Government’s vision and the reality of our resources.”
For instance, when reporting on the environmental land management schemes (ELMs) which are part of what the Government sees as the agricultural transition needed to protect landscapes Gary Smith (YDNPA director of conservation and community) said: “We would like the National Park to have a strong role in delivering the scheme and to help farmer to access it. But we don’t know how much money will go into the scheme and we don’t know how much of a priority National Parks will [have]. There is a lot of uncertainty because it is still being worked out.”
Or as Richmondshire District councillor John Amsden commented as a semi-retired farmer: “We haven’t got a clue at the moment.” Like another Wensleydale farmer, Allen Kirkbride, he warned that it could take several years for the ELMs scheme to get up and running – at a difficult time when the country could face food shortages.
The members authorised officers to to submit a response to the Government’s consultation.
Reports posted on Richmondshire Today: