An online survey invites the public to have their say on how national parks should be run

By Julie Harding

It’s big year for our national parks. The Lake District has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2017—if successful, it will be the UK’s 30th site—and the Campaign for National Parks (CNP), which has played a leading role in the promotion of these glorious areas, is about to mark 80 years since its inception. The organisation is acknowledging its anniversary with an online survey, inviting the public to have their say on how national parks should be run (www.cnp.org.uk).

However, the Countryside Alliance (CA) has taken it to task over a perceived negative slant on shooting. In one section, the CNP asks ‘Do you think any of the below should be prevented in National Parks?’ and goes on to list shooting alongside the burning of moorlands, large festivals, major housing developments, off- roading, second homes and zip wires, among others. ‘To highlight shooting as something to ban in National Parks, rather than something to celebrate, betrays the people and wildlife that it supports,’ writes CA chief executive Tim Bonner.

However, Liam Stokes, the CA’s head of shooting, believes that the CNP isn’t deliberately attacking shooting. ‘Its questions do show a lack of understanding, but we are not suggesting that the CNP is out to get shooting banned,’ says Mr Stokes who notes that the controversy has been further fuelled by a social-media campaign asking anti-shooting campaigners to fill in the survey. ‘The CA is encouraging people who support shooting to engage with this campaign in the hope that we can redress the balance,’ he adds.

Fiona Howie, chief executive of the CNP, admits that some elements on the ‘prevent’ list are liable to divide opinion. ‘Some people might be appalled at the thought that mass sporting events, large festivals and zip wires shouldn’t happen in national parks, but others think they’re not appropriate for designated landscapes,’ she says, promising that the CNP will not be taking the survey results ‘and turning them into a kneejerk campaign’.

She continues: ‘We want to know what people think could ensure that future generations have national parks they can enjoy and value. However, the survey results are only one piece of the evidence that will inform that thinking.’

Figures from the Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) show that shooting generates £18 million annually for the local economy. The area doesn’t have any grouse shooting, as on the North York Moors, but its high-bird shoots in the coombes adjacent to the moor are famed.

‘Exmoor is recognised nationally asa venue for pheasant shooting,’ says Dr Nigel Stone, ENPA chief executive, who feels positive that the fact that the CNP survey is stimulating debate. ‘This is a chance for the CNP to get ideas for the future,’ he says.

The Lake District National Park Partnership has worked with 25 organisations, including the National Trust and Forestry Commission, to create a four-volume case for the area gaining the UNESCO recognition bestowed on Hadrian’s Wall, Durham Cathedral and Bath. It’s the UK’s only nomination for 2017; a decision will be made by next summer.

‘It’s one of the most beautiful and important landscapes in the UK, so it’s only fitting that the area be nominated,’ says Heritage Minister David Evennett.

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