Agenda item

The following Notice of Motion submitted to the County Council by Councillor Connett has been referred to the Cabinet in accordance with Standing Order 8(2) for consideration, to refer it to another Committee or make a recommendation back to the Council:

 

Save Precious National Parks (Councillor Connett)

Decision:

RESOLVED that Council be asked to note that this Authority, on behalf of Team Devon (Leaders and Chief Executives), has already explicitly addressed the issue raised by this Notice of Motion, indicating to Government and local MPs that any merger of the functions of our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty would be strongly opposed.  However, there remains a case for a National Landscape service bringing together and strengthening existing national support and protection of our natural environment and providing a strong national voice for all protected landscapes.

Minutes:

(a) Saving Precious National Parks (Councillor Connett)

 

(Councillor Connett attended in accordance with Standing Order 8 and Councillors Dewhirst, Hannaford and Whitton attended in accordance with 25(2) and spoke to this item).

 

Our precious National Parks, including Dartmoor and Exmoor, are loved by millions and used by many thousands of people.

 

The LOCAL Park Authorities comprise LOCAL representatives who know and serve the community and keep LOCAL oversight of Dartmoor National Park and Exmoor National Park.

 

Government is understood to be considering setting up a National Landscape Service which would centralise services under one, nationally run, new organisation.

 

A National Landscapes Service that effectively replaces individual National Park Authorities would not be a positive reform:

 

·       It is contrary to the Government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda which involves government decentralising power and working more directly with local partners and communities.

 

·       The 2019 Conservative Party Manifesto stated that “the days of Whitehall knows best are over” (p.26) and pledged to give communities of all sizes far more control. This Council questions how a centralist National Landscapes Service would achieve this.

 

·       The move is contrary to international good practice in the management of protected landscapes which emphasises the importance of management being undertaken with and through local people and mainly for and by them.

 

·       Locally run and locally managed National Parks are able to respond in the most appropriate way to their own unique qualities and without the burden and red-tape of national management.

 

Therefore, this Council urges Government not to proceed with a National Landscape Service or to take any step which will remove local engagement and involvement in our precious national parks and Council instructs the Chief Executive to write urgently to the Prime Minister and local Members of Parliament serving Devon and Somerset setting out our support for our local National Parks.

 

Members considered the Officer’s factual briefing note on the matter (CSO/21/10) which referred to the media coverage and consideration of the possible role and structure of a new National Landscape Service. The establishment of this sort of service was one of the recommendations made through the Landscapes Review and the Council submitted evidence at the time of the Review. The issue had been raised through a meeting of the Team Devon (Leaders and Chief Executives) in late April which resulted in letters being sent to the Secretary of State for Environment and all Devon MPs outlining concern over the potential impact on the management of Devon’s unique series of nationally protected landscapes and that localised management was critical to their success and any centralised merger of functions were strongly opposed.

 

The Cabinet considered the recommendation now before them and the actions now proposed and already undertaken and any other relevant factors (e.g. public health, financial, environmental, risk management and equality and legal considerations and Public Health impact):

 

It was MOVED by Councillor Hart, SECONDED by Councillor Davis, and

 

RESOLVED that Council be asked to note that this Authority, on behalf of Team Devon (Leaders and Chief Executives), has already explicitly addressed the issue raised by this Notice of Motion, indicating to Government and local MPs that any merger of the functions of our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty would be strongly opposed.  However, there remains a case for a National Landscape service bringing together and strengthening existing national support and protection of our natural environment and providing a strong national voice for all protected landscapes.

Supporting documents: