Dales park authority sets ambitious budget to tackle farming, climate and biodiversity concerns

The most ambitious spending programme in a national park authority’s 68-year history has been proposed to “grasp the nettle” on pressing issues such as climate change, improving biodiversity and securing the future of farms.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s finance committee will on Tuesday consider spending £11.2m in the coming financial year, supported by new external funding and the use of £670,000 of its dwindling reserves, to expand its priority programmes.

An officer’s report to the meeting warns the authority’s level of spending is unsustainable after the coming year and it was “nearing the crunch-point where action is needed” over “looming long-term deficits”.

It states: “It should be understood the scale of the necessary budget adjustment is likely to require a reduction in our services and work programmes from 2023/24 onwards.”

The report states while the authority’s income generation performance, particularly in relation to external funding bids, remains very strong, it is facing ongoing cuts to the value of its core government grant, inflation and the need to pay 143 full-time equivalent staff, compared to 127 in 2009, the year before the value of the government grant started falling.

It states the proposed budget will enable the authority to fund and advise farmers and landowners to support high nature value farming, support farmers to take-up national agri-environment schemes and deliver Natural England’s ‘Catchment Sensitive Farming’ initiative.

Other key projects featured in the budget include launching a farm and estates open day programme in the coming months and pressing on with a multi-million pound programme supporting high nature value farming systems to deliver nature recovery on a grand scale across Swaledale and Upper Teesdale.

The extra spending will also be used to support the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of several commons in the park and implementing the government’s proposed Farming in Protected Landscapes programme to support upland farmers to improve the natural environment, cultural heritage and public access on their land.

The authority’s chairman, Neil Heseltine, said the time was right to be ambitious and grasp the nettle of urgent issues.

He said: “We’ve prepared a one-year budget and made a calculated judgement that the timing is right in terms of climate, nature’s recovery and the time is right for farming which is going through a transition.

“The reserves are there for times like this. We’re saying let’s try and make it happen now, let’s be positive and show to government we are right behind them in their objectives, whether it be farming, climate or whatever, but we do need resources to deliver that in the long-term.”

Mr Heseltine said the authority would need more money going forward, and while national parks had played an important role for people’s health and wellbeing in the bounce back from lockdown, there needed to be recognition of that in funding terms.

He said: “We have to put measures in place which are good for our farming families, our farming businesses and our farming communities. There’s quite a lot of confusion going on in farming communities at the moment and we can use this ambition to help those communities as they are so important to us as a national park and so important to the climate and nature aspirations of both ourselves and government.”

2 Comments

  1. In the report it states the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Authority payed staff level in 2009 was 127 and now it’s payed staff is up to 134.
    What are these extra 16 staff payed to do. Are they out there repairing paths and flood damage etc or are they just sat in the offices?

  2. It seems that YDNP sees its future role as providing support to the farming community as there is little emphasis on supporting anything else.Given that the Govt has pledged to provide support and has devised a number of alternative funding schemes post Brexit, the YDNP’s emphasis on supporting agriculture and little else seems misplaced.

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