‘The threats to Dartmoor are as great as ever. They may be more insidious than in the past but they are no less real.’ So warned Phil Hutt, director of the Dartmoor Preservation Association, at the association’s annual meeting on Saturday 28th May.
Phil cited the erosion of planning controls and the drive for economic growth as major challenges to Dartmoor’s wild beauty, alongside government’s encouragement to the parks to pursue commercial activities which might be contrary to the national park ethos. He said: ‘The government speaks fine words about our national parks, but it expects them to do more while keeping them on a standstill budget.
‘The government has published an eight-point plan for the parks which requires the national park authorities to put resources into increasing annual visitor numbers by more than ten per cent, from 90 to 100 million, and to be “drivers of the rural economy” rather than focusing on their primary statutory purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and the cultural heritage of the parks. There is little in the plan about protecting wildlife, or about the farmers and other landowners who manage the natural environment and landscapes and nothing about housing.
‘The implementation of this plan will place a tremendous burden on already-stretched park authorities. Meanwhile, last year they were given new powers to engage in commercial and fund-raising activities. We are concerned about the direction this might take. Sponsors rarely give money for purely philanthropic reasons; they will want their quid pro quo which might be damaging to the parks. And when it seeks such funding the Dartmoor National Park Authority will be competing with the DPA and other voluntary organisations.
‘All this demonstrates that the need for a thriving and robust DPA is greater now than ever before. We are ready to face the challenge,’ Phil declared.