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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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Proposed changes to Lake District national park will go to public inquiry

Controversial proposals to redraw national park boundaries that triggered a thousands-strong response are to be put before a public inquiry.

Richard Leafe photo
Richard Leafe

Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon has announced that a four-week hearing will take place later this year to decide whether changes to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales parks should go ahead.

It has been triggered after five councils – including Cumbria county and Eden – lodged objections to the plans by Natural England.

Should proposals go ahead, they would create another 200 square-miles of highly-protected countryside.

Proposed changes to the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park include taking in parts of the Orton Fells, the northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang to the north and including Barbon, Middleton, Casterton and Leck Fells, the River Lune and part of Firbank Fell and other fells to the west.

Changes to the Lake District National Park would see the inclusion of an area from Birkbeck Fells Common to Whinfell Common in the east of the park, and in the south an area from Helsington Barrows to Sizergh Fell and part of the Lyth Valley.

The M6 would mark the boundary between the two parks.

Lake District National Park chief executive Richard Leafe supports the proposed changes to the boundary of his park and welcomed this week’s inquiry announcement.

He said: “We have always taken the position that we will manage whatever shape and size national park we are asked to look after and it makes sense now to consider those issues at a public inquiry after such an extensive consultation process. Clearly on landscape values alone the areas being considered merit inclusion into a national park.

“We believe these areas will have a positive contribution to make to the future well-being of national parks and that people will see the benefits to Cumbria of their communities being given national park status.”

The inquiry will be held in June, with a pre-inquiry hearing next month. After the inquiry, the inspector will make recommendations to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who will decide whether to modify, approve or reject the plans.

In parliament, Mr Benyon said: “Over 3,000 objections, representations or expressions of support were received in response to the proposals, including objections from five local authorities. It is a statutory requirement that a public inquiry is held if at least one local authority with land in a proposed extension raises an objection to a relevant variation order.

“I have therefore commissioned a public inquiry into the recommended boundary changes and an inspector from the Planning Inspectorate has been appointed to conduct the inquiry.”

In the past, Natural England has said it believes the changes could bring benefits for the landscape between the parks and the 2,000-plus homes in the affected areas – including the Birkbeck Fells, Whinfell and part of Borrowdale in Eden.

A number of organisations, including Eden Council, have objected because of fears that Tebay would be left isolated outside the boundaries of both parks.

No details have yet been released of where any inquiry might be heard.

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