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The South Downs National Park Experience

30 Nov 2016

Land management and farming are centrally important activities in every National Park - land managers are among the key partners of the National Park Authority. Farming underpins the landscape character, biodiversity and ecosystem services intrinsic to the South Downs National Park. Phil Belden discusses how the SDNP has approached this key relationship and worked with the land management sector.

Dorset & E Devon National Park Team describes how this happens

15 Nov 2016

Affordable homes are needed for young people, key workers and others with essential skills. Without such homes we will continue to have difficulty in attracting and retaining such people, creating more balanced communities with a better inter-generational mix, and growing our economy.

The National Park – a Business Priority

At a time of economic uncertainty, it is important that areas and businesses play to their strengths and make the most of their assets.

01 Jul 2016

Dorset and E Devon’s greatest economic asset is our environment – as a 2016 report for Dorset County Council clearly states. It is worth some £1.5 billion every year. But we can do more. The National Park brand would add enormous strength to the area’s marketing offer. It would reinforce the attractiveness of the area to those from the UK and overseas, including higher spending tourists. We could market more effectively the special World Heritage status of the Jurassic Coast, the landscape qualities of our downs and heaths and the heritage of our inland as well as coastal towns and villages.

A NP would add to the attractiveness of Dorset and E Devon for mobile businesses, including those in the creative industries who can also draw on the skills and research in Bournemouth’s two universities. An independent report on the economic opportunities presented by a National Park has identified the strengths and partnership working that NPs bring to local businesses. It has suggested that the area might secure some £10 millions of annual central Government funding with over 90% of this being invested in the local economy via partnerships and as project funding. The report suggests that while two thirds of the economic benefits of a NP occur within the NP area, one third occurs in neighbouring areas through the halo effect. So all can benefit.

National Parks have a statutory duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of their communities. They are not against development and indeed approve a higher percentage of planning applications than other local authorities because they work hard to achieve appropriate development in the right places. National Parks have a good track record in promoting the provision of affordable homes and keeping such homes affordable and available for local people, including key workers. Dorset needs such housing to retain younger people and skills as well as to attract new key workers.

At a time when the future funding of farming is uncertain, there are advantages in being in areas designated as worthy of conservation and support for their high environmental and biodiversity value. Much of current farm support is geared to high level stewardship and, if future resources are constrained, it could be an advantage to farm in a National Park, and access the funding associated with such designation.

At a time of economic uncertainty, and when local government is being reorganized and hence uncertainty increased, Dorset and E Devon have an opportunity to build on the proven and successful National Park business model, one that is cost effective, adds value to partner councils and the wider economy, and is paid for by central government funding. A National Park is the planning authority for its area and would replace the AONB. It is not a quango. The National Park movement is a powerful force and there are benefits in being part of such a strong network and effective pressure group.

The NP Team welcomes the further evaluation of the NP proposal and its potential benefits as part of Dorset councils’ economic scrutiny programme. This is an opportunity that should not be missed.

A National Park delivers greater influence for rural communities

26 May 2016

A new discussion paper ‘The Dorset & East Devon National Park – how it would work in practice‘ examines how the Dorset & East Devon National Park Authority (NPA) would deliver greater influence for rural communities, as well as working efficiently with partner Local Authorities to improve services and financial outcomes. Benefitting all communities, a National Park would bring:

  • Additional and more certain funding benefitting all councils, communities and the economy. In addition to an assured central government grant of maybe £10 million per year, NPAs secure further funding and help others eg farmers to do so.

  • A stronger partnership way of working. A NPA is a partnership and operates through partnerships. A small % of NPA funding goes on running costs. The vast majority is spent through partnerships with communities, farmers, landowners, businesses, the
    not-for-profit sector.

  • Enhanced local representation, influence and voice for rural communities. Elected
    council representatives make up three quarters of the NPA, and Parish and Town
    Councils are a third of these. A NPA would strengthen grass roots democratic
    influence and representation.

  • Enhanced Planning influence and capability. A NPA would ensure local control of
    Planning, with no Government-imposed housing targets. It makes the Local and
    Management Plan for the NP in consultation with communities and others. NPAs
    approve a higher % of planning applications than other Local Authorities because
    they work hard for good, sustainable development in the right places, to support
    communities, local affordable housing, employment, and services.

  • Increased coherence and expertise. A NPA would bring joined up thinking, policy and
    delivery across the environment and economy, and expertise eg in land management, conservation, heritage, recreation, community liaison, and Planning.

Our National Parks not only conserve and enhance our environment and heritage, they also promote thriving and resilient rural economies and communities.

This important aspect is covered in an independent study: ‘Economic Opportunities,
Benefits and Wider Impacts of a Dorset and East Devon National Park’.

Local government re-organisation provides an opportunity for Dorset councils to include a National Park as part of a Devolution proposal to government in 2017.

These studies are significant contributions to this debate on our future.

Devolution and the National Park – new briefing

27 Apr 2016

The Dorset & East Devon National Park Team has proposed the designation of a National Park which would include the Dorset and E Devon AONBs, the World Heritage Jurassic Coast, and an additional area of heath-land between Dorchester and Wareham. The website for the proposal is: The relevant government agency, Natural England has given this National Park proposal a positive first assessment.

National Parks have a good record of balancing the key priorities of economic development, sustainable and thriving communities and a healthy environment. A National Park for Dorset and E Devon would have the remit, resources and capability to pursue these goals.

The natural environment and cultural heritage of the proposed Dorset & E Devon National Park area are world-class – rated in the top 4% nationally in a Royal Society for the Arts study in 2015. Dorset’s environment is also its greatest economic asset. A report “Dorset’s Environmental Economy,” commissioned by DCC and covering the Dorset AONB and the whole Dorset & E Devon Jurassic Coast, estimates this is worth around £1.5bn a year. A National Park would help Dorset and E Devon look after and enhance this natural capital.

An independent study “The economic opportunities, benefits and wider impacts of a Dorset and East Devon National Park” has been commissioned by the Dorset & East Devon National Park Team and is available in mid-May. This, together with the DCC report and one from the Dorset Local Nature Partnership, provides a strong trio of studies.

National Parks have a duty to promote the economic and social wellbeing of local communities and this includes promoting affordable housing to support local people, employment and key services. National Park Authorities work hard to achieve appropriate development in the right places. This enables them to approve a higher percentage of planning applications than other councils do. But the government does not set house-building targets for National Parks.

With a National Park, the area would benefit from additional and assured public funding. This might amount to around £10m a year in grant from central government, plus funds from other sources. This would represent some £10m a year to be spent in partnership with Dorset and E Devon communities and businesses.

The government, in recent statements, has assured National Parks of future funds and support. It wants to see National Parks at the heart of thinking and action for the economies and communities of England’s finest areas. A National Park would work with partners, including communities, businesses, voluntary groups and the Local Enterprise Partnerships, to achieve economic, environmental and community benefit.

In the context of local government re-organisation, Dorset has the opportunity to include a National Park in its proposals to government for devolution. A study is underway which will show how a National Park would work in partnership with a Unitary Authority to provide efficient, cost effective services. There is growing support for the National Park opportunity to be looked at as part of Dorset’s devolution review. The sooner Dorset councils ask the Government to approve a National Park, the sooner all of Dorset can benefit from the advantages and opportunities this would bring.


Dorset & East Devon National Park Team

04 Apr 2016

The Plan sets out the Government’s ambition to put National Parks at the heart of how we think about the environment and rural economy in the future.

The Plan sees National Parks as:

  • Inspiring natural environments, which connect young people with nature

  • Thriving natural environments, which showcase the benefits of designated landscapes

  • Drivers of the rural economy, which generate income for local businesses, and support local communities, skills and employment

  • Landscapes and heritage which promote recreation, health and wellbeing, and encourage involvement and volunteering.

The Government’s Plan reflects our aims for the Dorset & East Devon National Park to promote a strong and sustainable local economy, thriving communities, and a healthy natural environment.

We look forward to Dorset and East Devon having the advantages and opportunities which other National Park areas already enjoy.

Based on evidence from the South Downs National Park, we estimate that the Dorset & East Devon National Park would bring additional funding of around £10m pa from central government, and further funding from other sources. Working fully in partnership with local people – communities, businesses, farmers, landowners, local authorities, voluntary organisations – and the Local Enterprise Partnership, the National Park Authority would invest and spend resources to benefit the local economy.

In addition to the direct economic benefits of National Park funding, wide-ranging economic opportunities would be available to businesses and communities within and around the National Park.

The area’s fine natural environment is its greatest economic asset. A recent report for Dorset County Council confirms this. A Dorset & East Devon National Park would help the area to make the most of its natural assets.

We look forward to working with Dorset & East Devon stakeholders, including Local Authorities and communities, and with Natural England and the Government, to make these ambitions a reality.

We ask Dorset councils to ensure that a National Park is included in Dorset’s bid for local government re-organisation and devolution in early 2017.

Local Government Reorganisation in Dorset

The prospect of local government reorganisation presents an opportunity to move forward on the designation of a National Park

12 Jan 2016

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.

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