Changes to Local Planning Authority arrangements provide a logical context in which to develop a National Park Authority [NPA.] A NPA would bring a coherent, joined-up approach to planning across the National Park area, as well as policies and additional resources to benefit the area’s communities, economy, and environment.
Cllr Robert Gould, the Leader of Dorset County Council, has encouraged councillors and communities to think about the opportunities presented by local government reorganisation, including a move to unitary status in Dorset.
Cllr Gould suggests that there would be advantages in unitary status, provided this was on the right basis – including continuing opportunities for local input to policy and decision making. He suggests that, with cost savings in administration, resources could be better spent on services, and services which are efficiently and coherently planned and delivered.
During 2016, Dorset councils will examine the options for local government re-organisation, including unitary status. This review provides a timely opportunity to assess the case for a National Park.
A Dorset National Park would:
be funded by central government, and bring significant additional funding and resources from government, EU and other sources, to benefit Dorset
provide strong representation and influence for local communities including parish and town councils
contribute to coherent, joined-up planning across the economy, environment, communities, education, recreation, health and well-being
work with the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership and other partners to achieve economic and community benefit
conserve, enhance and make the most of Dorset’s environment and natural assets
improve recreational and health opportunities.
A National Park Authority would be the planning authority for the NP area, setting planning policy and standards with strong participation by local communities. National Park Authorities’ performance on planning is better than that of other planning authorities: NPAs deal efficiently and constructively with planning applications, and are faster at making decisions than the national average.
In her October 2015 announcement of the go-ahead for the “Lakes-Dales” National Park extension, DEFRA Secretary of State, Liz Truss, recognised that “National Parks are fabulous national assets which welcome over 90 million visitors per year and contribute to our vibrant rural economy – we are committed to helping them thrive.”
While LG reorganisation is being examined, planned and consulted on, there is every reason for the idea of a National Park for Dorset to be evaluated in this context.
We encourage Dorset communities, and Dorset councillors at all levels, to think about this. Dorset has the opportunity for a National Park which is designed and developed from the outset by Dorset stakeholders to meet Dorset’s needs. A constructive, timely way forward would be for the opportunities, pros and cons of a National Park for Dorset, including the potential for additional resources to benefit Dorset communities, and added value to Dorset’s economy, to be assessed independently, in the context of work on the options for LG change.
Please see our separate note: What would a National Park offer Dorset and Dorset’s economy?
See also National Parks – Open for Business, an offer from National Parks England to Local Enterprise Partnerships.