New powers provide national parks with opportunities

editorial image

The Government took an early opportunity to keep its pledge to national parks and allow them more freedom in the way they operate.

In last month’s Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced protected budgets for national parks over the next five years, but he also confirmed that the park authorities would have greater powers, something for which they have been asking for some time.

And last week, an amendment was voted through in the House of Commons as part of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill.

The move has been welcomed by Tony Gates, chief executive of the Northumberland National Park Authority.

He said: “We will have greater freedoms to trade and to set up joint and commercial-type ventures.

“We had been asking the Government for this since the Localism Act in 2011, because it gave those powers to local authorities.

“It’s about helping us make our national park grant go further and deliver more in the national park.

“The Government has listened and has acted quickly; they have taken an early opportunity to do what the Chancellor said he would do.

Mr Gates also highlighted that greater powers for the national park is a specific aim of the devolution deal for the North East, so this move also helps to deliver that for the region.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, MP for Berwick, spoke in the House of Commons last Monday in favour of the new measures.

She said: “I am so pleased the Government has listened to national parks, including Northumberland National Park, which have been asking for these freedoms for some time. The bill presented a good opportunity to bring the measures in to avoid delay.

I am pleased the Minister visited the North East and discussed the huge benefits these measures will bring to all our national parks, including Northumberland, which raised this issue with me over the summer. I am pleased to say they are delighted with the news.”

After the Chancellor’s announcement, Mrs Trevelyan wrote to Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, James Wharton, asking him to bring in the measures as part of the Cities and Devolution Bill, so there was no delay in their implementation.

Also in the Comprehensive Spending Review was the announcement that park budgets are going to be protected over the next five years.

Defra announced protection of more than £350million funding for public forests, national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty over the period up to 2020.