Following on from our talk from Julia Wilson, the outgoing Chair of the Friends of Roundhay Park, we stayed with the park theme and heard this week at an open meeting from His Honour Peter Charlesworth, retired Circuit Judge and outgoing Chair of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
Peter has spent 8 years as a government appointed member of the authority, working alongside County, District and Parish Councillors, and spent the last 3 years as chairman, also being elected chair of the national body. He has presided over the expansion of the Park, which since 1 August grew by nearly a quarter to include new areas in Cumbria and Lancashire while somehow brilliantly retaining the name Yorkshire Dales National Park. It now covers 841 square miles of stunningly beautiful countryside, almost linking up with the Lake District National Park.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is the planning authority for the National Park, but has other important duties to balance the competing interests of users of the park such as tourists, farmers, employers, residents, second home owners and other landowners, with the overriding aim of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park.
Recent achievements have included making 90% of the footpaths ‘easy to use’, with a target of 15% wheelchair access, maintaining miles of dry stone walls, encouraging volunteers and creating apprenticeships, and reaching a compromise with government which wanted all barns to be capable of developing as dwellings. Sensibly, this is now restricted to those adjacent to existing roads. Over the last five years all new building has been restricted to use by local people, with half of permitted development required to be affordable.
In an entertaining but comprehensive talk, Peter took us through the history of the Park, and current challenges. He gave us some insights into the difficulties of working with politicians, and above all communicated a deep love for the Dales. Steve McGrail gave a vote of thanks on behalf of the Club.