Glover Team – final report on National Parks…
Further to my report in February, the final version of the Glover report, commissioned by Michael Gove has produced several proposals. One could have a massive effect on the Jurassic Coast area of the East Devon AONB, the coastal parishes from Uplyme to Exmouth.
The report concludes that the current system of National Landscapes is fragmented, with 10 National Parks and a separate network of 34 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) including our own East Devon AONB. It suggests rebranding AONB’s as ‘National Landscapes’.
The central proposal is that National Parks and AONB are brought together as one family of national landscapes, to give them a bigger voice. National Parks would keep their titles, at least their current levels of funding and local autonomy, especially over planning. It suggests that AONB’s be given greater status in the planning system as statutory consultees, a view consistent with East Devon Local plan priority to ‘Conserve and Enhance’ the natural environment.
Report findings are summarised in five areas, supported by outline proposals within each;
1. Landscape alive for nature and beauty
2. Landscapes for everyone
3. Living in Landscapes
4. More special places
5. New ways of working
Full version of the Landscapes Review Report is available here;
A new Dorset (and East Devon) National Park?
I am concerned the report suggests ‘a strong case’ for combined Dorset and East Devon AONB’s forming a future National Park and that Natural England and ministers consider the case. Such a new NP would be over 1,500 Km2 (600+ sq. Miles). In perspective, the largest current UK National Park, with over 16 million annual visitors, is the Lake District at 885sq miles.
Dorset and Devon have fundamentally different local government structures. Former West Dorset District Council responsibilities are now within one of two ‘Unitary’ authorities, which work directly with Town/Parish Councils. Devon has indicated no plan to change its current structure.
Unlike an AONB, a National Park becomes a local authority, the planning authority for its area. The D&EDNP team states that “in consultation with any Unitary Authority, established as a result of local government reorganisation the National Park Authority would develop a planning framework…” this reflects the Dorset position, ignoring that in (East) Devon – with no Unitary Authority. The implication for coastal East Devon Towns and Parishes, including our Trinity Parishes of Uplyme, Combpyne-Rousdon and Axmouth in the current East Devon AONB (but not the remainder of East Devon or our Blackdown Hills AONB), would be a massive planning authority dominated by Dorset interests.
The report acknowledges that diversity of the unelected National Park and AONB governing boards is deeply unrepresentative of the people they represent (both locally and nationally). The great majority (68%) are male with just 32% female. Black, Asian and minority ethnic group board members are extremely rare just 0.8% across boards. Equally worrying is that there are no members of any boards under the age of 25, with the average age 64 in National Parks and 54 in AONB’s..
Democracy & Representation
There is no proposal with the report that future National Park Authorities should become democratically elected bodies.
The self-selected Dorset and East Devon National Park CIC (Community Interest Company), incorporated in 2017, has roots in the Dorset/Purbeck area. Five Officers are listed at Companies House, aged between 66 and 70, all giving a correspondence address in Wareham Dorset.
Its Glover report submission refers to ‘Dorset’ 262 times, ‘Devon’ only 29 times, of which 20 were in the read through “Dorset and East Devon”. East Devon feature in little beyond the ‘title’ and ‘map’, and is swiftly judged in the sweeping general assertion;
“Some of the evidence and research quoted relates to Dorset. Similar arguments and benefits would apply to East Devon”
This ill-informed, casual dismissal of East Devon without evidence gives a strong indication of the future priorities and focus of any potential Dorset and East Devon National Park.
Based on these, and other reasons, I am currently strongly opposed to any such National Park designation including East Devon. I have yet to find any opposition to this view in our parishes. If further information becomes available, I will of course review that position should it be necessary.
Cllr Ian Thomas
Cabinet Member for Finance and Independent Ward Member for Trinity
East Devon District Council
Mobile phone and FaceTime: 07884 494474
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: @CouncillorIanThomas