National parks and Devon unitaries – an intriguing solution

Councillor John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council appeared recently on BBC Spotlight, and explained that Devon was unlikely to become a Unitary Authority, because its population, at nearly 800,000, was greater than the Government’s preferred size for a Unitary, which is between 300,000 and 500,000. He may be right: Devon might be too big.

Meanwhile Michael Gove, Minister for the Environment, announces that he is to conduct a national review of National Parks, and says he is keen to create new ones.

Is there an opportunity here to kill two birds with one stone?

The Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks already exist, and there are proposals for a Dorset and East Devon National Park, and a South Hams National Park. Were these National Parks to be created, and significant powers handed over to them, the rest of Devon’s population would be significantly reduced.

There is also the Tamar Valley AONB and the Blackdown Hills AONB, which could be incorporated into an expanded Dartmoor National Park and Dorset and East Devon National Park respectively.

A redrawing of boundaries to, for example, link the South Hams AONB/National Park with Dartmoor opens the prospect of three large parcels of Devon being created to create new National Parks, which would be at least semi-autonomous administratively from the rest of Devon.

The rump of Devon, still centred upon Exeter, and including, essentially, Teignbridge, Torridge, North Devon, Mid Devon, and much of East Devon, would have a population of around 500,000, and thus meet the Government’s guidelines.

All the existing District Councils would disappear, thus at a stroke removing an entire tier of local government and saving tens of millions of pounds. And the new and expanded National Parks will bring in greatly increased tourism revenue, and provide much-needed protection to our glorious countryside.

DCC East Devon Alliance Councillor backs East Devon National Park

“I’m putting forward a motion to the next meeting in July for the Council to support a new park, which would include the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and prepare a case for submission to the review of national parks recently announced by the Government.

I’m proposing that Devon County Council supports the creation of a Dorset and East Devon National Park

And EDDC Leader Thomas is … silent so far. And Hugo Swire is … silent so far!

“Rural businesses say the government’s review of national parks could fuel economic growth in the countryside”

This will be a REAL test of what EDDC councillors’ priorities: a clean, green environment (remember Diviani promising this years ago!)

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/03/30/from-the-archives-1-clean-green-and-seen-promise-east-devon-tories-in-2011/

or more concrete.

“… Country Land and Business Association president Tim Breitmeyer said boosting economic growth and productivity in designated landscapes should be at the centre of the review.

“Designated landscapes are crucial to the wellbeing of the nation, providing opportunities not only for visitors but most especially for those who live and work there,” he said.

The crucial challenge is to strike the right balance between ensuring designation that delivers natural beauty, alongside encouraging the right types of economic activity.

Together, this more positive balance will sustain these areas and create thriving communities, said Mr Brietmeyer.

“Most businesses within designated landscapes experience significant opposition and hostility to development of any kind.”

Success would see more landowners, users, park authorities and conservation boards working together to identify opportunities to deliver sensitive development, said Mr Breitmeyer.

This could help improve the use and enjoyment of these unique areas, he added.

Two-thirds of people in England live within 30 minutes of a National Park or AONB, with visitors contributing more than £6bn each year to the local economy.

Game-changing

Emma Marrington, senior rural policy campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), described the review as “potentially game-changing”.

It was an opportunity to shine the spotlight on national parks and AONBs – and to consider whether there should be new additions to the current network of designated landscapes. …”

http://www.rsnonline.org.uk/rural-groups-react-to-national-park-review

What can a National Park do for East Devon?

“Following Michael Gove’s announcement that the Government will look at creating new National Parks – what will it mean to East Devon if a Dorset East Devon National Park were to become a reality?

A National Park is an exciting vision for our countryside, communities and economy and it can become a reality. It would work in partnership to:

• Conserve and enhance our great landscapes and heritage
• Boost our economy and attract new funding, investment and jobs
• Make the new National Park a global brand and destination; adding opportunity and value to our tourism businesses and local producers
• Help farmers and land managers to access funding and other support
• Work with communities for appropriate development, affordable homes for local people and a thriving, successful location
• As the planning authority for its area, partner with Councils and help deliver what our communities need

IT WILL LOOK AFTER OUR ENVIRONMENT

The Dorset landscapes and heritage are very special. They have been judged to be amongst the top 4 percent in the country.

The environment is Dorset’s and East Devon’s greatest economic asset and the National Park would have a duty to look after and promote our environment and heritage.

IT WILL SUPPORT COMMUNITY LED DEVELOPMENT IN THE RIGHT PLACES

The National Park would work with communities, councils and businesses to meet local needs, including housing and affordable homes for local people. National Parks are not against development, and they build on neighbourhood
plans to support thriving local communities.

The National Park would be a one-stop-shop for co-ordinated planning advice and would work in partnership with other local authorities.

IT WILL BOOST THE RURAL ECONOMY

A National Park would boost the rural economy and attract investment and jobs. Tourism is the area’s largest economic sector, and a National Park brand would put the area on the world map and encourage visitors to stay longer and spend
more.

It would help develop an area wide marketing strategy, manage tourism pressures and could attract funding for sustainable transport.

IT WILL HELP FARMERS AND LANDOWNERS

A National Park would help farmers and landowners to access funding and other support, and help them diversify and thrive as well as pursue conservation and recreational opportunities.

IT WILL BRING NEW AND EXTRA FUNDING

National Parks are separately funded by Government and not by residents or businesses. They also bid for extra funds which are invested in the local economy, in partnership with communities, not-for-profit and commercial businesses, farmers and landowners.

A National Park will be an asset and a close, efficient partner for the Councils and complement their work. It would bring additional resources and free up some council funding to help support local services and communities.

The South Downs NPA has secured over £100m in core and project funding since 20115.

HOW WOULD NATIONAL PARK STATUS HELP DORSET AND EAST DEVON?

National Parks have a responsibility to:

• Conserve and enhance the environment.
• Promote recreation, health, and the enjoyment and understanding of the special qualities of their area.
• Foster the economic and social wellbeing of their communities.

Let’s hope East Devon District Council make the right decision!

Has East Devon missed out already on a joint East Devon/Dorset National Park?

PRESS RELEASE:

Dorset National Park Welcomes Michael Gove’s Announcement

A press release Monday 29 May 2018 x the Dorset National Park Team

The Dorset National Park Team welcomes the statement by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for DEFRA, that the Government’s review of designated areas to be led by Julian Glover will consider whether more national parks are needed. A Dorset National Park was first proposed along with others which have subsequently gone ahead in a Government report of 1945. For reasons specific to the time it was not then progressed. But now there is cross-county and cross-party support for conserving and enhancing a landscape that includes the World Heritage Jurassic Coast, inland Ridgeways and the area of Thomas Hardy’s novels.

A Dorset National Park would be at the heart of southern England, next to the largest non-industrial conurbation in the country – Poole/Bournemouth – and within easy public transport reach of London, the South East, Midlands and Bristol. The Purbeck area of Dorset has the greatest biodiversity of any area in the country. But Dorset’s landscape, heritage and wildlife need to be safeguarded and enhanced.

A Dorset National Park would work in partnership with its communities, councils, landowners, farmers and businesses to ensure its communities thrive and are sustainable.

We look forward to working closely with Julian Glover in his review.
For more information see http://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/”

The key arguments East Devon District Council had in 2015 to reject a joint National Park were:

1. Loss of planning powers
however South Downs NP uses the Local Authority to administer the Parks Planning Process.

2. Prevention of ‘good growth’ in areas of low skill, low wages, economic weakness and housing shortage, especially affordable.
It has been shown that growth can be achieved in National Parks and provision of housing especially affordable is achievable with grants and government support.

3. Restriction and concentration of jobs and housing growth in the west of the District with minimal benefit deriving eastwards.
The GESP and the Local Plan are already doing this anyway!

4. Sensitive but non- National Park or AONB designated areas of the District may come under increasing and concentrated pressure of development.
As 3 above. Look at Cranbrook, Ottery St Mary, and Clyst St Mary!

There is a danger that the East Devon areas outside the already designated AONBs will be the major growth point as Dorset and other Devon Councils lobby and possibly achieve special status for their own areas.

EDDC must work with the National Parks/AONBs together with Greater Exeter to provide the best possible outcome.

Independent East Devon Alliance councillor Geoff Jung seeks support for a (non-political) Jurassic National Park

Press release:

“A Jurassic National Park makes sense Says East Devon Councillor

East Devon’s new leader Cllr Ian Thomas has been contacted regarding Mr Michael Gove’s announcement that the government is considering creating new National Parks within the UK.

Cllr Geoff Jung who is Ward Councillor for Raleigh Ward that includes several rural villages including Collaton Raleigh, Otterton, Bicton and Yettington and most of Woodbury Common that are all within the “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” of East Devon has written to Cllr Thomas asking for his and full council support in creating a Jurassic National Park to cover the length of the Jurassic Coast from Poole Harbour in Dorset to Exe Estuary which would include Woodbury Common and the villages he represents.
This is because a few years ago the Council discussed the concept of creating a joint Dorset and East Devon National Park which they considered neither appropriate or achievable.

However, Cllr Geoff Jung points out that since then a lot has changed as the District Council is now working with Exeter, Teignbridge and Mid Devon Councils with the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan, to provide for extra housing and commercial development in the Greater Exeter growth area it would now make sense to open a dialogue with Dorset and the Government.
To the Leader of East Devon District Council.

(An open Letter to the leader of East Devon District Council)

Michael Gove the Environment Secretary has stated today (27/05/2018) plans for a new “Green revolution”, with a possible new generation of National Parks and changes to the boundaries to our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

This review is our one opportunity in East Devon to protect and enhance our beautiful area!

Within East Devon we have the Pebblebed Heaths (commonly known as Woodbury Common) and the Blackdown Hills designated as AONBs. We also have the World Heritage Jurassic Coast which covers the coast line area from Exmouth through to Lyme Regis in Dorset, and the Exe Estuary which is a most important habitat being designated a SSSI and RAMSAR site.

The review is to be conducted by a panel led by Julian Glover, a former Downing Street adviser. They will look at both extending existing AONB and National Parks or possibly creating new ones.

Mr Gove says the review will consider landscapes such as the Chilterns and South Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to join the list of 10 National Parks.

It should be noted that Mr Gove mentions South Devon which may not include our own district but would possibly include the “South Hams” only.

It is well known that National Park status “provides safeguards at the highest level “In most National Parks the decisions on planning matters are dealt with through the “National Park Authority.” However, in the recently formed South Downs National Park, the Local Authority administer the planning process, on behalf of the National Park.

I understand that Dorset and East Devon were in discussions a few years ago regarding a “Jurassic National Park” which would cover the coast line of the Jurassic Coast and the hinterland of some of East Devon and Dorset including the areas of AONB in each area. However, I understand that the proposals were not considered appropriate at that time.

I understand from colleagues in Dorset that they are now considering applying to Mr Gove to designate the Dorset area of the Jurassic Coast from Poole Harbour to Lyme Regis to be included in a National Park.

This very important review of the AONBs and National Parks could mean that with the current policy of EDDC we may find ourselves having a new National Park in Dorset and in the South Hams but none in our area!

This would be a travesty in East Devon considering that one of the Jurassic Coast`s most important areas is the undercliff between Lyme Regis and Seaton and we already have the Pebblebed Heaths and the Blackdown Hills.
The loss to East Devon’s Tourist trade and the exclusion of funding and grants that will be allocated to the new National Parks would mean our area lose out on a once in a lifetime opportunity for protecting our beautiful unique landscape.

East Devon District Council is discussing with their neighbours in the west (Exeter, Teignbridge, Mid Devon Councils) a plan development. The GESP (the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan) is looking at the “Growth Area” for possible expansion of housing and commerce within the confines of commuting distance of the main driver which is the growth of the City of Exeter.

However up to now our dialogue with our eastern neighbours has resulted in a negative response to a joint National Park.

I would strongly support that we endeavour to work with our growth point neighbours to the East but at the same time discuss with the National Park Panel and our Dorset neighbours to plan a balanced and unique area of managed economic growth to provide the required housing, infrastructure and commerce, and at the same time expand the AONB designated areas and strive for a joint Jurassic National Park that would include the most important natural areas in our district.

East Devon is about to be placed at a crossroads, do we ignore our wonderful and unique selling point which is our countryside and only concentrate on growth or do we aim to deliver on both these important issues?

This issue most not become a Party-Political tool, but be endorsed by all the parties and independents at East Devon District Council.

I therefore ask for your support and urgent consideration.
Councillor Geoff Jung
Raleigh Ward. East Devon District Councillor”

East Devon National Park? Not in EDDC’s (many thousands of) back yards!

Gove wants more national parks. Dorset wanted a Jurassic National Park for Dorset and East Devon. Then EDDC Leader Paul Diviani said NO, NO, NO – we would lose control of planning (housing growth is heavily restricted in national parks).

And Clinton Devon Estates is most definitely against it too:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/11/09/dorset-positive-about-national-park-we-cant-join-up-as-diviani-doesnt-want-to-lose-control-of-assets/

And we wouldn’t want that, would we ….. well, naturally, of course, Owl would! And Owl suspects many others would welcome it.

A test of new Leader Ian Thomas’s green credentials?

“New wave of national parks could be created under Michael Gove’s plans for a ‘Green Brexit’

A new generation of National Parks could be created under Michael Gove’s plans for a “Green revolution”, The Telegraph can disclose.
The Environment Secretary is announcing on Sunday a sweeping review of the country’s protected landscapes, 70 years after the designation of the first National Parks.

The review, to be conducted by a panel led by Julian Glover, a former Downing Street adviser, “will look at both extending existing sites or creating new ones”, Mr Gove’s department said.

It is likely to consider calls for landscapes such as the Chilterns and South Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to join the list of 10 National Parks, which include the Lake District, Snowdonia and New Forest, and are protected by dedicated planning authorities and given special status in law.

Earlier this month, Dame Cheryl Gillan, the former Conservative cabinet minister, warned the Chilterns AONB was “threatened by development on all sides” and said National Park status “would provide safeguards at the highest level”.

Writing for the Telegraph, Mr Gove describes how National Parks are made particularly precious by the fact they are legally required to “promote opportunities for enjoyment” for visitors and to “provide homes for the farmers who keep our countryside both productive and beautiful”.

He adds: “In order to ensure our protected landscapes are in the best possible shape to meet future challenges I have asked the acclaimed writer Julian Glover, a passionate advocate for the countryside and a resident of one of our National Parks, to lead a review into how we can guarantee our most precious landscapes are in an even healthier condition for the next generation. The goal of Julian’s review is not to diminish their protection in any way, but to strengthen it in the face of present-day challenges.
“Are we properly supporting all those who live in, work in, or want to visit these magnificent places? Should we indeed be extending our areas of designated land? Could we do more to enhance our wildlife and support the recovery of natural habitats?”

The review, a key plank of the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan for a “Green Brexit”, will seek to “enhance natural habitats and protect plants and wildlife” as well as consider “expanding [the] network of National Parks and AONBs, supporting people who live and work there,” the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said. It will also look at ways to improve public access, in line with a separate pledge by Mr Gove to replace EU farming subsidies with a new system which pays farmers to improve access to their land.

The last time a new National Park was created was in 2009. Dame Cheryl has said designating the Chilterns as a National Park would help to “enhance the environment”.

Campaigners have also called for the Dorset AONB to be upgraded to National Park status, while others have advocated designating the Forest of Dean and Herefordshire Black Mountains as AONBs. While both statuses afford special protections, National Parks have a second formal purpose, under the 1995 Environment Act, to “promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities” of the areas by the public.

The Government pledged to conduct a review of protected landscapes as part of its 25-year Environment Plan. In its foreword, Mr Gove stated: “The plan looks forward to delivering a Green Brexit – seizing this once-in-a-lifetime chance to reform our agriculture and fisheries management, how we restore nature, and how we care for our land, our rivers and our seas.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/05/26/new-wave-national-parks-could-created-michael-goves-plans-green/