Park’s downsides

Being in a national park sounds a nice idea, but is it what it seems? I lived in one of the Devon national parks before coming to Sidmouth.

Its council is responsible for all planning, including listed structures (though not building control). It has 22 members, not one of whom is elected, and who can serve for 10 years. Ten are government appointees, and the rest are largely appointees from various councils. There is no direct accountability to the residents of the park.

An unnamed spokesperson for the campaign group referred to “the desirable development of greater administrative and policy coherence across the proposed area”.

In practice that means one-size-fits-all policies, which can result in policy and admin decisions that are highly unsuitable locally.

In terms of planning, we could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire by becoming part of one.

The park’s expensive strategic and management plans were merely words. For example, one was cleverly worded in favour of renewable energy while making it impossible in practice.

There was little perception among residents in its area that the park council was interested in their livelihoods and living standards.

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Farmers were hamstrung by diktats about their work, as were some of those trying to run a business.

Employment, population, food production and the like were not seen to be on the park’s agenda. Keeping things as they are even included preserving a building with a rusty iron roof.

The park we lived in has 105 employees, but recently got rid of three of its five park rangers to save money.

A more productive approach might be for the Vision Group for Sidmouth to find a way of working with existing organisations to work up policies on future population structure, employment, and related infrastructure.

CW Burke