Building in National Parks must balance beauty and development
Campaigners have warned the Government is in for a "rough ride" if it plans to allow development in national parks so long as developers recreate habitat elsewhere.
Addressing the National Park Authorities Conference in York yesterday, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said innovation could help balance protecting the landscape with the need for development.
That included the concept of "biodiversity offsetting", which is currently being consulted on, under which any new development on land with natural habitat would require a bigger or better area to be created.
In a speech which also highlighted the value of national parks to tourism and the wider rural economy, Mr Paterson said: "For too long we have allowed the lazy assumption that the environment and growth are incompatible objectives within the planning system.
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"I believe that, with a bit of innovative thinking, in many cases it is possible to have both. This is why I am particularly interested in biodiversity offsetting.
"Offsetting gives us a chance to improve the way our planning system works. It gets round the long-running conundrum of how to grow the economy at the same time as improving the environment.
"It could provide real opportunities in our national parks, where the necessary extension of a farm building could result in the enhancement of an existing habitat or the creation of a new one."
Campaigners looking to protect parks, such as Dartmoor and Exmoor, have become increasingly concern with the message coming from the Government.
Earlier this month, Planning Minister Nick Boles told MPs national parks risked being "museum pieces" and "embalmed" because of special planning restrictions saying he wanted to see "economic and social development and growth in national parks".
Kate Ashbrook, a well-known Dartmoor campaigner and general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said: "Destroying an old habitat and creating a new one just isn't sensible because habitats can take hundreds of years to develop.
"I would be particularly concerned if places that people love and enjoy were to be sacrificed.
"Providing something else, somewhere else, just doesn't make up for that loss.
"It is not just about national parks but open spaces that people have long used and enjoyed.
"Creating something else away from that community is no substitute at all.
"Campaign groups have got to be on their mettle and be ready to fight this. If the Government tries to undermine national park protection they are going to be in for a very rough ride."