By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
England’s nationally protected landscapes are under the greatest threat from development in their history, a report claimed yesterday.
National parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), both set up by previous Labour governments, are the victims of an assault on the rules under the eye of the present one, says the report by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE).
Such “jewels in the crown” as the Lake District, Peak District and Northumberland national parks, the Lincolnshire Wolds, Kent Downs and Dorset areas of outstanding natural beauty are all on a threat list drawn up by campaigners.
They say that rules protecting the environment for the public’s benefit are being challenged more than ever as a result of a buoyant economy and a Treasury, under Gordon Brown, that increasingly favours ignoring environmental rules in favour of growth.
The nine locations on the CPRE’s threat list are:
“¢Lake District National Park: a two-mile dual carriageway bypass on the A590 in open countryside around the hamlets of High and Low Newton. Work has begun.
“¢Peak District National Park: proposal to renew activity at Backdale Quarry, north of Great Longstone, Derbyshire. Public inquiry awaited.
“¢Plans to upgrade the Mottram-Tintwistle bypass would cut into unspoilt moorland, a nature reserve and part of the national park. Public inquiry expected
“¢Blackdown Hills AONB: plans by Nigel Mansell, the former racing driver, to develop Dunkeswell racing circuit in the West Country. Partly approved despite conflict with AONB policies but full planning decision awaited.
“¢Dorset AONB: plans to bypass a stretch of the A354 north of Weymouth which the CPRE says would damage the South Dorset Ridgeway and the Bincombe Valley. Concerns for Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve, ancient woodland in the Woodland Trust’s Two Mile Coppice and an area of archaeological interest. Planning application published.
“¢Kent Downs AONB: plans by Imperial College for housing and science park at Wye, despite development land and planned housing nearby. Proposal.
“¢Lincolnshire Wolds AONB: wind farm at Fen Farm, near Conisholme. CPRE believes it will cause “visual intrusion” into the Lincolnshire Wolds AONB. Approved.
“¢North Pennines AONB: proposed wind farm at Plenmeller near Haltwhistle considered by the CPRE to be a “visual intrusion”. Planning application expected
“¢Sussex Downs AONB: new stadium for Brighton FC and transport interchange at Falmer, within proposed Sussex Downs park. Permission granted by John Prescott is subject to legal challenge.
Tom Oliver, the head of rural policy at the CPRE said: “The whole basis on which the nation’s most beautiful countryside is there to be enjoyed by us all is called into question by this series of damaging proposals.
“Protected landscapes are only protected to the extent that the Government and local authorities obey their own rules. Time and again, it appears that the Government or a local council is tearing up the rules when a significant conflict arises between one of our finest landscapes and another interest.
“What is the point of having laws that protect our precious countryside if they are ignored when it really matters?’
“Threat has become reality with work starting on the A590 High and Low Newton Bypass this month. It got the go-ahead despite running for its entire length through the Lake District National Park.”
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