Last night, Labour said Government's plans to give national parks authorities a new duty of "sustainable development" could give developers a “licence to build” on some of the most pristine and stunning parts of England.
England has 10 National Parks – most protected under law dating back to the early 1950s - covering nearly 5,000 square miles of the most beautiful countryside in the world, including Exmoor, the Peak District, Dartmoor, the New Forest and the Lake District.
Each park is run by its own National Park Authority, which has two statutory duties - to conserve the countryside and its wildlife, and to allow people to enjoy it.
Now ministers want to add a third duty - to “facilitate sustainable development” which campaigners say could require the parks’ authorities to allow more building.
Pressure is growing on parks authorities to find other sources of income after their funding was cut in last year's spending review, leading to concerns that many could encourage more development to bring in extra income.
According to a business plan published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ministers will “consult on whether the legislation for National Parks Authorities needs to better reflect their role in facilitating sustainable development”.
The consultation about the changes to the National Parks guidance is due to be launched next month and run to March 2012.
It was first recommended by the Government’s rural communities’ advisers in June last year which recommended that it may be “appropriate to change the legislation to reflect the importance of sustainable development” in the Parks’ core duties.
Read more on this influencial editorial at The Telegraph By Christopher Hope, Senior Political Correspondent which is prompting interesting comment and debate.