North York Moors National Park would be better off with single authority, says long-serving councillor

A single unitary authority governing North Yorkshire would be the best outcome for its national parks, the longest serving member of one park authority has claimed.

Sheep on the North York Moors National Park. picture: Gary Longbottom.

David Jeffels, who has served on the North York Moors National Park Authority for more than two decades, said having one council working alongside the county’s two national parks would strengthen their ability to deliver statutory purposes.

Mr Jeffels is a Conservative member of both Scarborough Borough and North Yorkshire councils, which have submitted rival plans for the county’s future governance.

He was speaking ahead of the park authority considering its response to a government consultation seeking views on whether the district councils’ proposal to split the county on a east-west basis or the county council’s ambition to retain its boundaries would be best for the area.

A report to a meeting of the park authority next week states although there are “some uncertainties in both proposals that warrant further exploration with the proponents”, officers’ overall view was that both proposals could be supported on the basis that they unlock the opportunity of a devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire.

When asked to detail its uncertainties, the park authority said they related to working practices.

The officers’ report states while the East-West proposal describes national parks as strategic partners with each lying within one of the two new areas, it would support the two park authority’s desire for a closer co-operation with local authorities and would seek to protect and enhance park authorities’ functions.

It states the county council’s proposal highlights the need to continue to work with national parks, including their role as planning authorities, which would be protected and the opportunity to work with national park authorities on climate change.

While remaining neutral on the proposals, the report adds: “Partnership working between national park authorities and local authorities is critical to the delivery of our national park purposes.”

Mr Jeffels said he agreed partnership working would be crucial to the new unitary regime, but he hoped the authority would support the single unitary authority proposal as the county was well placed to tackle climate change issues, which was key for the national park.

He said: “A unitary North Yorkshire would be the best outcome for local government in the county because 85 per cent of the responsibilities are already with the county council.

"If there was to be an east-west split it would mean the creation of a whole new infrastructure.

“The Dales and the Moors national parks already work closely together and I’m quite sure that there could be some benefits from them both being under the scope of a single unitary authority.

"The two parks have a lot in common, such as tourism and seeking to enhance the landscapes, and I’m sure the two working together in a unitary county would be to our advantage.”

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