Why is our MP not supporting the Dorset National Park? (May21)

Why hasn’t Chris Loder, Dorset MP, talked to the Dorset National Park supporters?

Chris Loder contacted our Parish meeting in Hooke saying that he had significant reservations about a Dorset National Park, but without explaining why. He appeared to be soliciting opinion but failed to give any details of the pros and cons. I’ve now found his statement about why he doesn’t support it, but am not very impressed.

I sent details of Chris Loder’s response to the Dorset National Park team. They have responded with detailed information about what it might mean for the county.

The government committed to more National Parks in their manifesto, as part of their support for a greener economic future. They clearly think that there are multiple benefits. What’s more it would be likely to significantly increase funds coming into the county. Dartmoor, for example has 20% less area than Dorset, but 15 times more Government funding. What’s not to like about that?

Most important of all for me though is the environmental benefits. The National Park proposals are part of a commitment to leave the environment in a better condition than we inherited it.

A National Park could help make Dorset and East Devon the natural place to visit and do business. It offers a unique opportunity to help reverse the decline in our environment, make this the home for ambitious and innovative businesses and help our farmers and land managers to diversify and thrive in new market and farm funding conditions.

Dorset National Park website, May 2021

I think our MP is being irresponsible in not supporting the initiative. Even more so, that he doesn’t appear to have researched it properly and at least heard the argument from the other side. Isn’t that part of his job? I talked to Richard Brown from the Dorset National Park initiative. He said he’d be very keen to talk to Chris Loder.

I’d like an MP who bothers to find out more before deciding to send notes to Parish Councils encouraging us all to oppose something that could really benefit us all… Boo…

11 thoughts on “Why is our MP not supporting the Dorset National Park? (May21)

  1. Julia Hailes says:

    Further information from The Dorset National Park team:

    Dear friends,

    This is to update you about new items on the Dorset National Park website, as follows.

    A National Park for a Thriving Dorset Economy
    Key aims of the Government are to create the conditions for economic recovery and a thriving future and to help areas “level up” and strengthen investment, skills and productivity. These aims are as relevant for Dorset as they are for other areas. The Government sets its commitment to create new National Parks for England in this context and a Dorset National Park can help achieve these aims, as a partner in securing a thriving, successful future for our economy and communities.

    You can read this briefing note here: https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/post/thriving-economy It has been sent to our contacts in Defra and Natural England to help inform their thinking.

    Some Further Questions Answered
    Your questions on any house price premium in National Parks and on the economy of the South Downs National Park (Dorset’s comparator as a working, farmed landscape with sizeable settlements) are answered here: https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/post/faq-05-21.

    These two answers have also been posted separately in the appropriate FAQ sections at https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/faqs

    A New Map and accompanying text are on the website here: https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/map and in the FAQ tab.
    The text says:

    The Dorset National Park Team and Dorset CPRE would wish a National Park to include as much as possible of the Dorset Council area. You can read HERE an independent study for Dorset CPRE, by a respected Dorset planner, setting out the strong and persuasive case for the inclusion of all rural Dorset on Natural England’s National Park designation criteria: landscape, biodiversity, cultural heritage and recreational opportunities.

    This approach would strongly resonate with the national policy context and directly help address key priorities and concerns, including the Government’s commitment to create new National Parks, designate 30% of England’s land area for nature by 2030 (“30 by 30”), address the climate and nature emergencies, better connect people to nature including for health and wellbeing, and pursue opportunities for a successful, thriving, greener economic future.

    A Dorset National Park would make a major contribution to all these priorities and concerns. A National Park would bring clear benefits for all rural Dorset and its communities. It would work in close and supportive partnership with the Dorset Council (which would remain the lead local authority), communities, businesses, farmers and other stakeholders, to help secure a thriving, prosperous, successful and sustainable future for Dorset’s communities, economy, environment and heritage.

    The proposal originally submitted to Natural England in 2013 covered the Dorset AONB and East Devon AONB (which together cover the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast), and Thomas Hardy’s “Egdon Heath”. Since then, several areas have expressed their support for the proposed National Park and their wish to be included. These include Portland, Sturminster Newton and the Puddletown Area Parishes.

    We await guidance on how Natural England and the Government intend to respond to and take forward the recommendations in the Glover Review.

    Our best wishes
    Richard & Sandra Brown
    Members of the Dorset National Park Team

    It’s time for Dorset’s National Park

  2. Gay Lewis says:

    Clearly the issues are complex and I do not pretend to have got to grips with them. Or not yet, anyway. But, some feedback on two questions would be a good starting point for me.
    Firstly, if National park status is achieved, would this result in yet another layer of bureaucracy interfering with individual and community decision making?
    Secondly, could the conflict of interest arising from the dual roles of Local Councillors in fact be a good thing? I ask this because they are ideally placed to understand and address the competing needs of housing, farming, business and protection of the environment. Also, as the elected representatives of their communities, they have sufficient clout to introduce a degree of objective pragmatism to any sticking points that might otherwise lead to delays and/or impact upon inward investment.

  3. Jonathan Hoskyns says:

    I’m sure that now Chris has locked horns with you, he will be more careful to do his research before making sure a robust reply, without first being clear how firm the ground is beneath his feet? You will be aware from my response on other media, that I too have strong reservations about replacing a AONB with an NP. I will try to be brief here.

    In theory, there is little difference between the two except that one is managed by the council and the other is independent but consulting closely with the council (according to the Dorset NP website) l. Theoretically, it attracts much large sums of cash from the government.

    The National Planning Policy Framework confirms that AONBs are equivalent to National Parks in terms of their landscape quality, scenic beauty and their planning status. … AONBs are largely managed by local authority advisory committees or Partnerships, whereas National Parks require a special authority of their own.

    It would seem therefore that in theory the difference between the two is finding and whether the economy needs propping up financially to ensure the preservation of the landscape and environment. A quick look at existing NPs shows they are all areas of natural wilderness, low intensity agriculture and very low population. To protect those areas, the government injects money to support what is already there, tourism and low impact farming and ensure that the environment is not damaged by industry or developments that.might otherwise be attracted by low land prices. The converse is true of Dorset. It has a well established economy, thriving tourism and a AONB that in theory, gives the landscape and environment the same protection as a NP. If it isn’t doing that, then there is mismanagement taking place but last time I looked, millions of £ were being pumped in to the area to bury the National Grid power lines and I’m sure there are a lot of other projects and innovations going on unseen.

    “Use it or Lose it” is a motto not often heard in the private sector but often resounds in the corridors of local government. It’s the reason the the public sector so often compares poorly with private sector efficiencies and is largely the fault of central government offering finds to those that reach out for it, rather than bothering to identify need. Of course it’s natural to grab money when you can, especially when there consequences are unseen. Why not spend it on Dorset? is a natural question to ask. Having worked out what the NP funding is actually meant for, it’s quite easy to see that on comparison to other counties, there is little need for the economy of Dorset to be underpinned at the expense of loss of landscape or wildlife (although I’m sure it would be well used and there are improvement to made in all areas). This is money that is aimed at areas where the local economy is not self sufficient and without it, the natural habitat is likely to be eroded by development and agriculture, where residents try to eek out a living from limited resources.

    I’m sorry to get all liberal on you, but this is public money and there are other areas that need it more. The AONB should already give Dorset the environmental protection it needs and as an outsider, I believe it would be an inappropriate use of public funds. Compare the economy of Dorset to Cornwall, which is still nursing a shotgun wound to the foot from Brexit. The money could be far better spent elsewhere than on Dorset.

    So I don’t have quite the same concerns as Chris but if the Council loses.control of the AONB, the. I can see a loss of democratic control (which seems to be the rage at the moment) and you can’t expect the council turkeys to vote for Christmas?! I think your efforts would be better placed chasing up the Dorset AONB and making sure they are using their environmental powers for the best good of the area.

    • Richard Brown says:

      Jonathan Hoskyns is right that in theory under the NPPF, National Parks and AONBs should have the same level of environmental protection. But in practice the Dorset AONB has not been able to prevent what many see as inappropriate development, including – according to CPRE – approval of the largest development in any AONB in England. National Parks are the planning authorities for their areas and have a duty to respond proactively to local housing needs while also having the responsibility to conserve and enhance the landscapes, wildlife and cultural heritage of their very special areas. So a Dorset National Park would be able to support and encourage the developments that Dorset needs – including for housing, economic space and affordable homes to help attract and retain young families. The NPPG provides that the Dorset Council and a Dorset National Park could work together to undertake a local assessment of Dorset’s housing needs, in place of the central algorithm that drives the current pressures for more development. This local assessment of housing need would apply to all of the Dorset Council area – not just the area within the National Park.

      Dorset, like the South Downs National Park, is a working farmed landscape and deserves as well as needs the additional resources and expertise that a National Park would offer, in line with the Government’s policy for a greener economic future. A Dorset National Park, including the World Heritage “Jurassic” Coast, would double the extent of currently underrepresented coastline in English National Parks, and offer the potential for a marine dimension. This would offer the prospect of better coordination across the off-shore and on-shore interface. Dorset could be at the forefront of a successful green-blue economic future.

      The Government has reaffirmed its manifesto commitment to create new National Parks. The Glover Review recommended that Dorset, the Cotswolds and Chilterns be seriously evaluated. A Dorset National Park would bring opportunities and benefits for communities, the economy, environment and heritage Dorset-wide.

    • Jonathan Hoskyns says:

      RIchard Brown, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post with such useful insight as to why the aims of the NPPF’s have not come to fruition. It seems clear to me that if Chris Loder wishes to oppose a Dorset National Park, then he should do so by being pro-active and ensure that the Dorset AONB has teeth and achieves the same environmental and planning protections as if it was a National Park. As an MP, he is well positioned to lobby in Parliament in a positive way for his constituents, rather than taking a negative stance towards a National Park. Your response did not seem to address my main topic, which was that it might be a misappropriation of funds, that should be targeted at areas with an less sustainable economy, but as others have written here, those living in Dorset should be doing what’s best for Dorset. However, your information has also thrown into focus the conflict of interest that Councillors have in their role as the local planning authority and protectors of the Dorset AONB. I can’t imagine that anyone could think that those two responsibilities can sit fairly on the broadest of shoulders? The only answer is to take control of the AONB away from Dorset Councillors or at least make sure that they have a minority interest on the Board of Trustees. I suppose this bridges the supposed gap between a NP and AONB, but perhaps without the money? 😉

  4. Lesley Malpas says:

    Having read https://www.dorsetnationalpark.com/the-case the fears and concerns that Chris Loder expresses in his statement appear to be groundless – the vision for the Dorset national park would help to usher in the much needed changes to land management practices that are currently missing in the County.

    ‘Some agricultural practices reduce the diversity of our landscapes and wildlife while the quality of our rivers and of Poole Harbour continues to deteriorate and some resources are still overexploited. Our cultural heritage, including the landscape of Thomas Hardy, remains threatened. Current organisations have not, despite their efforts, been able to reverse this decline in our natural capital.’ (quote from DNP) Clearly we must do more to restore and protect nature in Dorset , and to me this in an excellent idea and way forward. Well done Julia for highlighting this issue.

    • Julia Hailes says:

      Thanks Lesley. It’s helpful to identify the very real benefits that National Park status would bring to Dorset. I do hope that we can demonstrate it has the support of many people here. One of the problems, I think, is that most people are not aware that this is a possibility and it could be killed off before it has got enough attention. Please could anyone interested alert others, who could demonstrate their interest and support. Also, to follow up on Chris Loder’s suggestion – send him an email – hello@chrisloder.co.uk

    • Julia Hailes says:

      Yes – that sounds like a good suggestion. Working together for the best interests of Dorset makes sense to me. Thanks.

  5. Chris Loder MP says:

    You misrepresent my correspondence with the Parish Meeting Julia which is such a common theme that I hear about this proposal.

    In actual fact, it is thoroughly inaccurate and misleading. My first letter asked for the Parish Council’s opinion and my second communication fully explains my position after I was asked. But it appears that you weren’t able to successfully convince the Hooke Parish Meeting of your points given the result of the consultation.

    Given you didn’t contact me to clarify any of these points before your post on your website, it is clear that you are not willing to engage in the discussion of the full picture of what this proposal means. You are also completely wrong that I have not listened to the opposite views on this project.

    If anyone would like to ask me specifically about the Dorset National Park proposal or would like to know what I actually said to the Parish Councils, I would be very pleased to hear from them by email at hello@chrisloder.co.uk

    Chris Loder MP

    • Julia Hailes says:

      Hi Chris,
      I’m delighted that you’ve responded to my blog about the Dorset National Park. I’m surprised however that you berate me for not getting in touch with you to clarify any of the points I’ve made. It appears that you and your assistant James Alston have been contacted by a number of people to ask you to have a meeting with the Dorset National Park people, but neither of you has even responded, let alone agreed to a meeting. Why not?

      In relation to your contact with the Parish Council. I can only comment as a village member – I’m not a councillor and did not attend the Parish Council meeting. Therefore, I was not in a position to persuade or otherwise the Councillors to support the Dorset National Park.

      The first I heard about this issue was a brief email to the whole village with a message from you – as follows:

      “Over the coming months, the Government will make a decision on the designation of further National Parks across England.

      You may be aware that there is a proposal for a Dorset National Park, which will be one of the possible designations considered. I have significant reservations about such a proposal, but I would appreciate the view of Hooke Parish Meeting as to whether or not you support the Dorset National Park proposal and your reasons for doing so.”

      I was surprised that you should be sending this message without giving details of why you have reservations, or giving us a chance to hear both the pros and the cons. As I said in my blog, I understand that it was part of your Government’s manifesto, and it seems to have many benefits for the residents in Dorset and the local environment.

      I note that you followed your comment in my blog with an email ‘hoping’ that I would accept your post, as it was waiting for moderation. I was surprised at your challenge asking me to explain why – if I didn’t post it. I am not shying away from discussing this issue – rather the opposite.

      There is some concern amongst other Dorset residents that you have made up your mind and won’t be budged. And perhaps, that it’s not worth engaging with you. I don’t feel the same. I hope that you will do what you asked me to do – ‘engage in the discussion’, ‘get the full picture of what this proposal means’ and ‘listen to opposite views on this project’.

      You could start by getting in touch with Richard Brown from Dorset National Park website and arranging a meeting with him – and others who have a lot of experience and knowledge about national parks. He has written a very constructive article about the merits of the scheme. I hope you are willing to hear it in person.

      Please let me know if you do manage to attend a meeting on this subject – clearly something that’s important for your Dorset constituents.

      All the best, Julia

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