A report into the future of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty has backed key recommendations made by Cumbria Chamber of Commerce.
The newly-published Landscapes Review calls for National Parks to have a legal duty to “foster the economic and social wellbeing” of local communities, alongside their existing duties to conserve natural beauty, wildlife and culture.
Chamber Chief Executive Rob Johnston said: “This was our number one recommendation. It should make National Parks such as the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales much more business friendly.
“The Landscapes Review also picks up on what we said around housing and transport.
“We highlighted that a lack of affordable housing makes it difficult for businesses to recruit staff. The Review recommends setting up a National Landscapes Rural Housing Association to build affordable homes for rent – we welcome that.
“We argued too that National Parks should have a strategic transport role to tackle issues around parking and public transport. Not only does the Review agree but it advocates making the Lake District the pilot for this.”
The Review, led by the writer Julian Glover, was set up by the former Environment Secretary Michael Gove to ensure that National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are fit for purpose for the 21st century.
Its other suggestions include establishing a national rangers service, renaming AONBs as ‘National Landscapes’ with increased funding and stronger governance, and measures to increase the number of visitors from ethnic minority groups.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has said the Government will “carefully consider” the Review’s findings.
Cumbria Chamber of Commerce made 12 recommendations in its submission to the Review, submitted in December.
To shape its response, the Chamber conducted a survey completed by more than 60 businesses operating in Cumbria’s two National Parks and three AONBs, and it convened a workshop for businesses to discuss issues raised by the survey.
Rob added: “I’d like to thank those businesses that took part in our consultation. They helped us to make a strong case and it’s gratifying that Glover has listened to much of what we said.”