This is an archived press release
Monday 14 February 2005
14 February 2005
Peak District National Park services survive grant blow
Action for wildlife, access to open countryside and community engagement will all remain top priorities for the Peak District National Park Authority, despite its below-inflation grant rise.
The Authority, which is funded directly by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, made internal efficiency savings to avoid frontline service cuts when it drew up its annual budget on Friday (February 11).
This year's grant of £7.5 million rose by just 1.62 per cent - the lowest increase of all eight National Park Authorities in England. UK inflation is currently around 3.5 per cent.
The Authority's action plan for open access, launched nationally in the Peak District in September 2004, has been protected. It will also improve habitats for wildlife, especially on its own properties such as the Eastern Moors estate. Disappointingly, those improvements will not be as fast as the Authority wanted.
However, an area for expansion is in community engagement with local residents, young people and urban areas around the National Park. These will be boosted thanks to a one-off £250,000 grant from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Capacity Building Fund, along with new funds allocated by the Authority.
The Authority's plans for this year include:
- Piloting Community Forums with a project in the Hope Valley - finding out residents' concerns and addressing them in partnership with the area's district councils. This could later be extended to other areas of the National Park
- Holding seminars on priority issues, such as affordable housing or access to services, with residents and partner organisations
- Holding events for young people to find out the concerns that affect them and joint ways of addressing them
- Holding community meetings across the National Park where residents can speak directly to Authority leaders
- Widening access to the National Park, especially working with urban youth and ethnic groups in Sheffield. It is committed to MOSAIC, a Council of National Parks project to builds links with ethnic communities, and to working with multi-cultural youth groups and the Sheffield Black and Ethnic Environmental Network.
The Authority's workforce will remain the same, at 253 full-time equivalent posts.
Authority chair Tony Hams said: "It's good news that we will not have to make a reduction in services but it's disappointing that we cannot make all of the improvements, especially for wildlife and open access, that we would have hoped.
"The Peak District National Park is a special case - it is the most visited National Park in the country, it has the second highest population and the Authority deals with a higher number of planning applications than any other.
"Nevertheless we have produced a balanced budget, we have managed to make efficiency
savings, we spread the load by working extensively with partners from both the public and private sectors,
and we are able to draw in substantial finances for special projects from other bodies. This is a good
deal for the National Park."