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Peak District National Park

Volume 973: debated on Wednesday 14 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will introduce legislation to enable the board of the Peak District national park to be democratically elected.

We have no plans for legislation on this matter. Two-thirds of the members are appointed by the democratically elected county councils concerned.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of my constituents who live in the Peak District national park think that the board is insensitive to their interests and tends to put the interests of visitors above theirs? Does he agree that there is a great deal of merit in allowing the people who live in the park directly to elect the board which would then be responsible to them?

We have no proposals to change the position. There is a particular difficulty with regard to the Peak park, in that six county and nine district councils are involved. However, I take very much to heart my hon. Friend's comment about the need to ensure that the interests of the people who live in the park are properly considered. We shall reinforce that point in representations to the planning board.

I accept what my right hon. Friend said about the difficulty of direct elections. Does he accept that there is a problem between the Peak park planning board and those who live and work in the park over the planning control authority? The board does a great deal of valuable work, but there is a problem in this respect. Will my right hon. Friend consider three measures that might help? First—[Interruption.]

Order. The House must be fair to the hon. Gentleman, and he must be fair to the House. I hope that he will not make his three points now. Perhaps he will contact his right hon. Friend later.

Will my right hon. Friend consider improving the appeals procedure in order to make it less cumbersome, increasing the representation of the district councils on the board and putting Ministry of Agriculture nominees on the board?

I do not think that it would be appropriate to have one appeals system for national parks and another for other parts of the country. We are anxious to improve the whole working of the appeals system so that the Peak park area can benefit as well. I believe that at present there are two farmers on the Peak park planning board. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food makes representations to us about appointments. I am afraid that I have forgotten my hon. Friend's third point.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the protection of the national heritage that is contained in our national parks requires a strengthening of national membership on national park committees, rather than a weakening of it? In that respect, can he tell us what arrangements have been made for the proper discussion in the House of proposals arising from topic paper No. 4 on the conservation of the country heritage?

This is a question of balance between the national interest and the proper preservation of the interests of those who live in national park areas. At the present time in the Peak park, 22 members are appointed by the count councils and only four come from the district councils. I think thtat a fair point can be made in that regard. We are open to representations on the documents that have been issued by the countryside review committee, and we shall consider any points that the right hon. Gentleman has to make.