Planning and National Parks
We are not going to see house building all over the South Downs National Park, and the Minister did not say that there should be a relaxation of planning controls in parks, as press reports implied. He said that the parks should not become museums, and I agree with him about that.
I also agree with what the minister said about the need to express localism more fully in parks. I have always warned about the democratic deficit in national parks, which was reflected in the controversy over the South Downs National Park's decision last week to allow a travellers' site at Crossbush.
It was the backbench MP who moved the debate who suggested that the duty to conserve parks should no longer be given primacy over the duty to secure economic well-being. The minister did not endorse this view, and it is not Government policy. I would strongly oppose such a change, which would undermine the essence of landscape protection in national parks, and the Government is doubtless aware of the alarm that it would provoke.
National Parks are, as the minister said, the crown jewels of our landscape. I strongly believe that they deserve, and am confident that they will retain, the highest levels of landscape protection.
I would urge anyone who is concerned about this issue to read the debate, as opposed to the press reports of it, which can be found here.