The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is among the country’s best performing national park authorities, new figures have indicated.
An annual study comparing progress on the key issues of recreation management, promoting understanding and development control by England’s ten national parks stretching from Dartmoor to Northumberland has found the organisation overseeing the Yorkshire Dales is ranked in the top quartile for five of the 11 indicators and the top half for four others.
Although the figures show the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority was the country’s best performing for determining major planning applications within 13 weeks, it dropped into the bottom half for deciding upon minor and other types of planning applications.
Nevertheless, a report to a meeting of the authority’s audit committee on Tuesday highlights that other aspects of the planning service performed well, approving 93 per cent of planning applications and seeing 80 per cent of appeals against the authority’s decisions dismissed.
The study found the authority was was also ranked best for the proportion of designated Site of Special Scientific Interest Land it managed being in favourable condition and second best rights of way that are easy to use and listed buildings at risk that had been conserved.
Although significantly behind the North York Moors authority over the number of volunteer days worked, with its group of 250 volunteers the Yorkshire Dales body still achieved the third most in the country and second best for volunteer days attended by under represented groups.
Julie Hutton, deputy chair of the authority and member champion for corporate management said: “We take our performance very seriously, and that means opening ourselves up to independent assessment – through standards like customer service excellence – and wider public scrutiny by publishing detailed performance data in reports such as this.”
Referring to the authority’s rights of way national park ranking rise from fifth to second this year, with an estimated 88 per cent of its 2,623km of routes in good condition, was the result of the body attaching particular importance to their quality.
Ms Hutton said: “It has been one of the authority’s four priority programmes for many years, and with support from local partners we have made a sustained investment in retaining and improving that quality.
“In terms of the planning service, we’ve consistently performed well in dealing with planning applications in recent years.
“However, last year we were particularly hard hit by Covid, with many staff having to work from home whilst caring for young children, several key members of staff off work for prolonged periods, a surge in applications between December and March and the introduction of new planning software system.
“Our staff have worked incredibly hard in very challenging circumstances, but we just couldn’t provide the level of service we would normally expect.
“However, while there are still challenges out there, things are now starting to return to normal.”