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 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.