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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Probe ordered into national parks bid

CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales national parks will face a public inquiry.

Natural England has announced proposals to extend the boundaries of the national parks, which would increase their combined area by 500 square kilometres (193 square miles).

But local authorities affected by the proposals have objected, triggering an inquiry which is expected to open in June.

Minister for the natural environment Richard Benyon told MPs yesterday : “Over 3,000 objections, representations or expressions of support were received in response to the proposals, including objections from five local authorities.

“It is a statutory requirement that a public inquiry is held if at least one local authority with land in a proposed extension raises an objection to a relevant variation order.

“I have therefore commissioned a public inquiry into the recommended boundary changes and an inspector from the Planning Inspectorate has been appointed to conduct the inquiry.”

The plans for the expansion would see the Lake District National Park expand to the east into places such as Greenholme and Borrowdale, and to the south into Brigsteer and the Sizergh Castle area.

The proposals were drawn-up by Natural England, the public body responsible for conserving and enhancing England’s natural environment.

South Lakeland District Council’s cabinet highlighted issues it wished to be addressed should Natural England progress with the idea. One fear raised was that the expansion could put more pressure on towns such as Ulverston as it would mean stricter planning rules in the surrounding area.

A pre-inquiry meeting will take place in March with the full hearings, which could last for four weeks, expected to begin in early June.

Following the inquiry, the inspector will make recommendations to environment secretary Owen Paterson who will decide whether to modify, approve or reject the plans.

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