Ruth George MP response to Peak District National Park Management Plan Consultation

You can respond to the Peak District National Park Management Plan consultation here:

http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/looking-after/national-park-management-plan

 

As Member of Parliament for High Peak, I am very proud to represent a constituency which includes a large part of the beautiful Peak District National Park. I t is important to ensure that the National Park works for people who live and work in the Park, as well as for visitors.

 

Transport in the Peak District National Park

The rurality of the Peak District National Park makes for breath-taking scenery, but does not always facilitate easy transport links.

As the consultation notes, despite there being over 12 million visits to the National Park each year, there still exists a lack of user friendly and affordable public transport links, making some areas only accessible by car. Residents experience this issue regularly. Not only is this environmentally undesirable, but with many people unable to afford their own car, the local economy does not benefit from the volume of visitors that it potentially could.

The problems for weekend and bank holiday visitors will be exacerbated by the proposed cuts to Sunday and bank holiday services across the Peak District by Derbyshire County Council.

The decline in commercial bus services over recent years is also deeply worrying for residents living and commuting in and around the National Park.  As well as problems for commuters, buses are relied on by many people who are in danger of social isolation in rural areas.    Community Transport, which is a lifeline for many people in High Peak requiring transport to medical appointments, or for shopping is also threatened by increasing licensing demands.

As well as supporting commercial bus services, I hope that PDNP will support community led transport, car sharing schemes and Park & Ride schemes to help both local residents and visitors in and around the Park.

Rail is also important for both passengers and freight to travel sustainably and reduce heavy traffic on rural roads.  High Peak benefits from a large number of quarries which provide valuable employment and economic benefits to the area, but also currently require a high number of heavy lorries on our roads as there is not enough capacity for freight on current railways.

I hope that PDNP will support moves to increase the capacity of rail freight across the Peak District, as well as improvements to passenger services as we are seeing on the Buxton line, and are needed on the Hope Valley line to reduce traffic and congestion which can blight the Park both for residents and visitors.

 

Affordable housing

I welcome the Peak District National Park Plan’s proposal to “ensure a proactive approach to addressing the local need for appropriate housing in the Peak District National Park”.

As the Plan mentions, “Well designed, affordable housing which supports communities in perpetuity will address local issues and support the conservation objectives of the Peak District National Park”.  I fully support these remarks which stress the importance of the provision of affordable housing, and its role in keeping communities alive.

It is especially important that young people who have grown up in rural communities are able to afford to remain in those communities if they wish to, and that young families can afford to live in villages to support rural schools, which are such an important part of our communities.

 

Second homes

Whilst it is vital that the building of affordable housing is incentivised, provisions need to be in place to ensure new affordable homes do not become empty shells as second homes.

Purchasers of second homes deplete the housing stock for local residents, whilst contributing significantly less to the local economy than permanent occupants would and it is vital that the Plan does not overlook the importance of preventing this.

 

Preventing rural isolation

Rural isolation is all too prevalent in the Peak District National Park, due in part to a combination of inadequate transport links and an ageing population.

The Plan notes how the historic nature of places within the Peak District National Park fosters a sense of community for many. But more needs to be done, and it is vital that organisations and premises which help communities to thrive, and which help to prevent rural isolation, are supported. It is not enough to simply “retain communities as vibrant and thriving places”, but the Plan must go further, endeavouring to engage secluded sections of society.

 

Sustainable business opportunities

It is crucial that sustainable business opportunities are supported, and I welcome that the Plan mentions supporting businesses which are committed to conserving and enhancing the Peak District National Park’s special qualities.

I am concerned that LEADER (EU funding for rural development) is listed as a supporting partner for Intention 6.3 of the Plan, and I hope that provisions will be made regarding facilitating partnership with local businesses following Britain’s exit from the EU.

 

Infrastructure

Proactively supporting the infrastructure in the Peak District National Park is necessary for both businesses and residents to keep up with neighbouring towns and cities.

I support delivering a Peak District National Park-wide enhanced broadband service and mobile connectivity Plan in line with the UK’s Next Generation Access standards.  In deciding whether Broadband infrastructure is appropriate, I encourage the PDNP to fully take into account the overwhelming need of residents and local businesses for fully functional broadband services to enable them to keep up with increasing speeds and data volumes.

The same principle should apply to mobile phone and DAB radio coverage.

It is important that local power generation can be done where it is viable and this is supported by many local residents and businesses alike.

I agree that the development of wind and solar farms “could have a major impact on the landscape” in some areas.   However, there are opportunities which would not be overwhelmingly detrimental to highly visible landscapes, and given the potential that the area possesses for wind power generation, it is disappointing that its positive aspects are not mentioned in the Plan. This is especially disappointing considering the negative implications the Plan outlines that climate change – induced partially by the production of greenhouse gases – will have on the National Park’s special qualities.

We all have a responsibility to tackle climate change wherever we can, and energy production is an important of that so the development of renewable energy sources should be supported wherever they are viable in areas with lower landscape impact, such as around existing industry such as our quarries.

 

Biodiversity

Climate change threatens biodiversity in the Peak District National Park. The National Park is home to various unique habitat groups which face threat.

I support the Plan’s claim that “Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. This will change some of the habitats that are special to the Peak District National Park”, and it is vital that this consultation notes the importance of viable clean energy alternatives if it is serious about sustaining a diverse array of habitats in the long term.

I agree that there is work to be done to build on the progress made by Moors for the Future and the Birds of Prey Initiative to increase the abundance of moorland birds (including birds of prey), many of which should be indigenous to the National Park, but are woefully underrepresented. Practices which harm threatened wildlife should be discouraged, and wildlife protection laws enforced.

I hope that PDNP will encourage management practices which make a positive contribution to biodiversity.

 

I hope that these points will be given full consideration in the consultation.