National park rights of way repairs to be reduced

The Yorkshire Dales National Park. Picture: LDRS.

Guardians of the Yorkshire Dales National Park look set to reduce repairs to rights of way across a section of the protected area after a council rejected its appeal for a contribution towards the £1m annual bill it faces.

A meeting to discuss the park authority’s proposed budget for the coming year on Tuesday will hear Westmorland and Furness Council has recognised its statutory responsibility for 710km of rights of way maintenance in the park with funding of up to £45,000 a year.

However, a report to the park authority’s finance committee states North Yorkshire Council has refused to offer any contribution for the 1,898km of rights of way it has statutory responsibility for.

The report states the costs of maintaining the park’s rights of way is “a significant sum” and, in view of the financial pressures facing the park authority, unsustainable.

The report states: “Therefore, the programme will be reduced by approximately £45,000 and maintenance works on the North Yorkshire network will be cut accordingly.”

The proposed move comes a year after the park authority flagged its intention to consider programme cuts over council’s lack of recognition of their responsibility to provide financial support towards rights of way maintenance.

The meeting will hear the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has awarded the park authority no increase in funding over several years and the grant for the coming year is less in actual terms than it was in 2010, and in real terms is worth half of what it was then.

Ahead of the meeting, the park authority’s chairman, Neil Heseltine, said it had placed maintaining rights of way among its top priorities and had taken over responsibility for them many years ago from North Yorkshire County Council to deliver its statutory purposes.

He added: “Our money is tight and North Yorkshire Council’s is too, so we have a bit of an understanding where they are coming from, but we’re only really after a contribution to show willing. It’s interesting that we have got that from Westmorland and Furness Council and not North Yorkshire.

“It would be nice for North Yorkshire Council to show their appreciation to the national park and to the users of the rights of way. It is not an insurmountable amount of money even though budgets are tight.

“We feel like we have an extremely positive working relationship with North Yorkshire Council and to continue that would be great.”

Leading members of North Yorkshire Council said if it provided £45,000 for path maintenance, that would mean £45,000 less to maintain the county’s 5,750 miles of roads.

The authority’s executive member for finance, Councillor Gareth Dadd, said: “I think the national parks should have a long hard look at themselves sometimes.

“If they got their planning policies changed and allowed a bit more building that would produce a bit more council tax income, we might be in a better position to support them.”