Politics of The Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales is one of 15 designed areas of natural beauty to fall under the remit of a National Parks organisation.

While general governance is still the hands of North Yorkshire County Council’s regional district arms such as Craven and Richmondshire, the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority is a local planning authority and is responsible for maintaining rights of access.

Indeed, the authority has taken on some of the roles normally carried out by councils, but it cannot become involved in anything that does not relate the upkeep and promotion of the Dales themselves. For example, it has full authority over planning applications, yet it does not have any powers over social housing provisions and local taxation.

Planning can often be an area for major disputes. Many people living in the district wish to make changes to their properties only to be told that their plans do not comply with conservation rules.

That said, the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority has produced research which shows that during 2012/13 81 per cent of planning applicants were pleased with the service they received and 71 per cent of major applicants were decided on within the body’s target of 13 weeks.

The authority, which was established by the passing of the Environmental Act in 1995, cites its mission as being to conserve and enhance the Dales as well increase understanding of the park’s importance and improve enjoyment for visitors.

As part of that commitment it provides a number of schemes and incentives to the estimated 1,770 companies and 1,930 establishments operating within the boundary of the Dales. In particular, it understands the vital role farming plays in the region’s economy and operates schemes designed to assist the agricultural sector. Chief amongst these is the Farm and Countryside service which gives farmers and landowners advice on improving conservation management.

It also assists businesses in applying for grants from funding pots such as the Environmental Stewardship and the Farming and Forestry Improvement Scheme.

The authority also works on a number of green energy projects and assisted in the opening of three hydro-power schemes at Halton Gill, Linton Falls and on the River Bain.

Linton: Rebuilt turbine house and Upper Weir Copyright Dr Neil Clifton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Linton: Rebuilt turbine house and Upper Weir
Copyright Dr Neil Clifton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Its performance is scrutinised on at least an annual basis by the central National Parks body as well as external auditors. It also has four internal committees which meet regularly to review the authority’s finances, resources and standards.

The majority of the authority’s funding comes from the government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but it also generates income from land which it owns as well as planning application fees and car parking charges.

Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority can be contacted at its offices in Bainbridge (01969 652300) and Grassington (01756 751600) or on its central line 0300 456 0030

Information held by the authority can be obtained by the public under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004, and the Data Protection Act 1998.