There will be an intriguing and possibly far-reaching discussion at next week’s meeting of the District Council Cabinet. They are to consider a proposal to create a new National Park that would extend from Poole to the outskirts of Exeter, combining AONBs in Dorset with the East Devon AONB. The plans are very much at an early stage, but the organization promoting the designation, the Dorset and East Devon National Park Group, plan to take their vision forward via Natural England.
The Head of EDDC’s Policy Team, Matt Dickins, has prepared a decidedly negative paper, claiming that a National Park would damage the local economy, and push unwelcome development into other parts of the District. He seems especially concerned that EDDC would lose their present control over planning - areas within the new National Park would be administered planning-wise by a new Park Authority.
Members of the public, and local businesses might take a different view. A new ‘Jurassic’ National Park will almost certainly attract high value tourism and National Parks are normally associated with good quality employment, sustainable development and planning policy that is respectful of the environment. Many critics of the EDDC draft Local Plan have complained about the failure of EDDC to draw together a desire for economic prosperity with respect for the countryside.
The juxtaposition of the new Park with the World Heritage Jurassic Coast will undoubtedly create a powerful marketing opportunity, that will stimulate tourism and the ‘Jurassic’ brand. But there are drawbacks: increased tourism brings prosperity but also traffic congestion, and ‘honey pots’.
The Cabinet will be in something of a predicament. Most authorities would be overjoyed to have the quality of their landscape recognised by such a prestigious and well known designation. And thrilled by the prospect of the tourism revenue that will undoubtedly follow: especially at a time when our town centres are under great pressure.
But a new National Park would also mean a substantial diminution in the powers presently invested in EDDC…..