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MP raises issue of National Park democracy in parliamentary debate

November 29, 2012 9:22 AM

TF ruralSouth Lakes MP Tim Farron has this afternoon used a Parliamentary debate to push forward his campaign to bring about greater accountability including direct elections to the boards of National Park authorities across the England and Wales.

In the debate Tim highlighted the concerns raised by people across the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales that the people who are making important decisions about the parks are not accountable to the people those decisions will affect. Of the 22 members of the National Park authorities for both the Lake District National Park and the Yorkshire Dales National park, none are directly elected to the national park board.

Tim had recently pressed Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on the subject during Parliamentary questions, saying that it is essential for National Park boards to contain directly elected representatives in order to ensure they are accountable for the decisions they make, and prevent them riding roughshod over the opinions and priorities of local people.

In response to the debate, Environment Minister Richard Benyon reaffirmed the Government's commitment to seeing pilots introduced in the Peak District and the New Forest. However Mr Benyon acknowledged that there are several obstacles to be cleared before this will be possible, including passing new legislation.

Commenting, Tim said: "Introducing accountability over decision making for our National Parks is essential to ensuring legitimacy to the Park authorities and will help to bring about a greater sense of community ownership over the process for those living within the park boundaries.

"The Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks both have huge significance to the lives and communities of people in South Lakes so they deserve a say in how it is run. I am very pleased to have been able to raise my concerns about the recent controversies over the plans for Brockhole, as I seek to ensure local people's voices are heard when it comes to the national park.

"I'm very grateful for the minister's reassurances that the Government are still committed to the pilots, however I have some concerns that it is not considered a high enough priority to put forward legislation in the Parliamentary session. I will ensure that I keep the pressure on the Government for as long as it takes to see our national parks becoming accountable to local residents and local businesses."