Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority prepares for funding cuts

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority is considering limiting the resources it devotes to building conservation, its visitor centres and developing public transport services as it braces itself for another real terms cut in government funding.

Members of the authority are being asked to identify its most important areas of work to ensure it is clear where efforts should be directed for the next three years.

While the six years to 2015 saw the authority dealt a 40 per cent real terms cut in core funding, government grants have been further eroded in recent years. Current indications are that the authority can expect another real-terms cut in its government grant for the next financial year.

In a report to a full meeting of the authority on September 28, the authority’s deputy chief executive Gary Smith said setting priorities was challenging due to the 25 members having their own views, but the process would provide a framework to deliver services.

He said there had been “a clear recognition amongst the members” tasked with suggesting some priorities that some hard choices would have to be made.

The report states planning has been added to the proposed list of priorities, which includes other areas such as farm conservation, where the authority will “strive for excellence”.

The report says pumping resources into planning would help stimulate the development of housing and employment sites, attracting more working age households to live and work in the park.

However, it is proposed that public transport, building conservation and national park centres be given limited attention, meaning that unless external funding is found the authority will only do the minimum necessary to meet legal duties.

The report says making building conservation a limited priority would see a focus on supporting statutory functions, agri-environment scheme applications and chargeable services and the end of the programme of regular condition surveys of grade II listed buildings.

While it has been suggested redeveloping its four flagship visitor centres and opening them all year round would boost the public’s understanding and enjoyment of the park, making the sites a limited priority would see the centres closed on weekdays between November and March and reliant on external grants for revamps.

Earlier this year the authority postponed a decision on an appeal to prop up the Friends of the Dales plea for help propping up bus services, despite being warned ignoring the appeal could harm their integrity.

A Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority meeting heard uncertainty was surrounding the future of Dalesbus services linking the national park to towns and cities from as far north as Darlington and Middlesbrough to Leeds and Bradford in the south.

Bruce McLeod, chairman of the Friends of the Dales, said the authority had an opportunity to address the pressing issues of climate change and increasing numbers of cars visiting the Dales.

However, it has been recommended that the authority restricts its public transport funding to its current grant of £5,000 a year to Dalesbus to subsidise summer Sunday bus services only, have no local liaison with users and not to actively promote public transport.