The countryside immortalised by the artist David Hockney could enjoy the same protected status as the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales in years to come.
East Riding Council has expressed an interest to Natural England in having parts of the Yorkshire Wolds designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), joining the likes of the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale in North Yorkshire and the Lincolnshire Wolds.
There are currently about 40 AONBs, which are nationally important landscapes of such outstanding beauty that they attract the same level of protection as national parks.
The move gives hope to those who oppose the “industrialisation” of the Wolds through developments including wind farms and fracking for gas.
The chairman of the No to Wolds Wind Farm Group, Steve Hey, has amassed more than 1,000 signatures supporting the designation of the Wolds in a petition.
He said: “It will make decision-makers look long and hard at what they are doing.
“At the moment we have no protection whatsoever and we are seeing an onslaught of industrialisation from the wind farm industry because they see it as a soft touch.”
The road to getting AONB status is long and complicated. If agreed by Natural England that an application for designation can be pursued, then the council has to gather further supporting evidence over several years, before a public inquiry is held.
Interested parties including landowners, residents and farmers as well as businesses would be consulted.
East Riding councillor Symon Fraser said: “I am still very cautious about it, I think what changed my view was having visited in particular the Lincolnshire Wolds AONB and their management team.
“We would want to see it managed so it brings benefits and activity to an area – not so it stops it.”
Coun Fraser said some parts would fit the criteria, others would not because they have insufficient areas of completely natural habitat.
They have been in talks with North Yorkshire, Ryedale and Scarborough councils.
He said AONB status came with a “very significant price tag” into perpetuity and they needed to be sure about how it would be resourced.
“We have to be sure that the economic benefits outweigh the costs because this is a burden we would be laying a foundation stone for,” he added.
East Yorkshire MP Greg Knight said he backed the council’s move 100 per cent, and added: “It is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the country and deserves being protected from developments – including hideous wind farms.”
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