The Peak District National Park became the United Kingdom’s first National Park on 17 April 1951
Following hot on the heels of the South Yorkshire Forest closure, the 3rd most visited National Park in the world has announced the sacking of many of its key ‘middle management’ i.e. the vital professionals who deliver conservation and tourism benefits to a wider region and indeed to UK plc. These are the people with the necessary CONSERVATION skills and experience that we expect and need in order to maintain and grow the vitality of this unique region and to care for and enhance the conservation of a remarkable but incredibly delicate resource for all our futures.
The Park receives over 25 million day visits a year plus increasingly, longer-term tourism visitors. Along with farming, forestry, minerals, and water, this leisure and tourism drives a vibrant regional economy. However, such exploitation needs careful management in order for it to be sustainable – for all our benefits. Considering that the economic benefits trigger substantial and growing income to the Exchequer – through VAT receipts and consequent employment taxes, it is remarkable and indeed foolhardy in the extreme that we cannot ‘afford’ to provide and maintain the skills and infrastructure to sustain the Park. Sheffield itself has recently identified how the sports and leisure in the Park and the Park fringes drive an outdoor leisure economy worth millions of pounds a year to local businesses, and delivers massive health benefits and hence savings to the NHS – yet none of this income transfers back to support the life-source, the golden goose responsible for such abundant wealth.
The idea of access to the countryside, of Green Belts to protect and enhance rural and urban fringe areas, and of National Parks to both conserve nature and to facilitate people enjoying the same, date back to the 1930 and 1940s. Even through the dark days of World War Two our forebears planned for a better future. They understood the benefits and the need better perhaps than we do; and moreover they did not take it for granted. Today we assume what we have has arrived of its own accord and will always be there – a foolish and naive assumption. Consequently we risk ‘stealing’ that same future from our own descendants. This is selfish, short-sighted, greedy in the extreme, and really – unforgiveable. But then, that is just my view! Maybe the cavalry will come over the hill to rescue us just in the nick of time…… but I am not holding my breath!
25 million visitors powering a regional economy and a countryside populated by wealthy affluent tourists and locals in big cars and spending ‘loads of money’ (as Harry Enfield would put it), but we cannot afford to care for or nurture the Park for a longer-term future – irresponsible? – yes; unforgivable ? – yes.
Sadly we seem to know the price of everything but the value of nothing………….
LET’S HOPE NOT……………………………………..