Help us protect National Parks from intrusive masts

We have been invited to give evidence in writing and in person to the House of Commons Committee which is examining the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

This follows our Briefing on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. We have particular concerns about the implications of clause 7 which would remove the duty for the secretary of state to have regard to National Park purposes when making regulations under the Electronics Communications Code (this sets out regulations relating to the siting of telecommunications infrastructure).

We recognise the importance of providing faster broadband in rural areas but believe that this is best done in a planned and co-ordinated way which takes account of the special status of all designated landscapes. There is no evidence that the additional protection afforded designated landscapes has delayed the roll-out of broadband. In fact National Park Authorities are taking a proactive approach to facilitating broadband delivery in a way which minimises the visual impacts and we included several examples to illustrate this in the briefing we sent to MPs. The real barrier to broadband roll-out is the absence of state-aid clearance from the EU.

Briefing on Growth and Infrastructure Bill for Second Reading PDF

During the second reading of the Bill on 5 November, it became obvious that our concerns about clause 7 had been picked up by a number of MPs. Hilary Benn (Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) mentioned the Campaign for National Parks by name, saying he could see why we wanted the clause removed and several other MPs, including some Conservatives, expressed concerns about the implications of clause 7 or raised issues which support our concerns. These included Sarah Wollaston, Nick Herbert, Cheryl Gillan, Annette Brooke, Clive Betts, Tristram Hunt and Ian Murray.

Michael Fallon, a minister in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, indicated that the government would be consulting shortly on the proposals that relate to broadband infrastructure in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. He also promised to write to Nick Herbert and Anne Marie Morris to reassure them about their concerns on clause 7.

Read coverage of the full debate.

What we are doing

> Giving oral evidence to the Committee on 20 November

> Producing further written evidence, as invited

> Following up with interested MPs to ensure we can build on their positive support.

> Producing further briefings for MPs and Peers as the Bill progresses through Parliament

What you can do

> Read the evidence we have submitted to date

> Send us case studies we can use to support our case

> Write to your MP about the implications of the Bill for National Parks

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National Trails – worth going the extra mile

Natural England needs to find 30% worth of budget cuts.  One of the ways they hope to achieve this is by revising the way that England’s National Trails are maintained and enhanced.  Natural England has said that the purpose of the current discussion is to find ways to get more value for money and to reduce the role of government, making more room for civil society. But is this all a false economy?

The Natural England budget for the maintenance and enhancement of National Trails is already small relative to their value to the economy.  Our 13 National Trails in England attract around 12 million visitors per year.  The total budget allocation from Natural England for National Trials is a reported £1.7m.  Natural England reports the contribution that National Trails make to the economy as £307m per year for the South West Coast alone, supporting over 7,500 jobs.

Further research sponsored by Natural England in 2008 put the cost of maintaining our highest quality public routes at 20p per user and reports that 51% of users stay overnight adding to the local economy.

Natural England has made some sensible proposals including three-year grant cycles with less restrictions and greater local leadership.  However, some of the other suggestions about levering in funding from the private sector without restriction and further reliance on volunteers are cause for concern.  We believe that any reductions in central government funding are likely to encourage further cuts at local level, and have adverse effects on our highest quality trails in our most breathtaking landscapes at a time that will only hurt rural economies.

Please click here to see our open letter in The Telegraph.

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Seeing the wood from the trees

On Tuesday 10 July the Independent Panel on Forestry formally presented its final report to the government.  While many, including the Campaign for National Parks, warmly welcomed the report and its recommendations, it is clear that there is a now a new challenge facing government – to act on these recommendations at a time when completion on spending is fierce.

 

At the event that launched the Report the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman, said: “we will continue to invest in forestry but must do this within fiscal constraints”, later adding in response to a question from the floor, “I’m not ducking the resource issue.”

Pam Warhurst, Chair of the Forestry Commission said: “this is a real challenge and there are real obstacles, not least the constraint on resources”, but concluded with we at the Forestry Commission are ready to play our part.”

And this is where the root of the problem lies.  While the Panel make a number of hugely helpful recommendations for retaining public ownership, up-skilling the workforce and providing market support, all come with a price tag.  Where this investment will come from is as yet unclear. Continue reading

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