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Why Dorset CPRE supports a Dorset National Park

24th June 2021 updated

Dorset is a very special place. Its environment is our greatest economic asset and is why so many of us live and work in or visit the county. 

But our environment faces enormous challenges and Dorset Council has rightly declared a climate and ecological emergency.  Many communities also feel threatened by what they see as inappropriate development. How would a future Dorset National Park help address these issues?

National Parks are under a duty to respond proactively to local housing need. Dorset’s relevant comparator is the South Downs National Park (SDNP) which is also a working, farmed landscape with many town and village communities. In the process of preparing its Local Plan (approved and adopted in 2020), the SDNP worked in partnership with local communities to identify their needs for housing, economic development and local infrastructure. The SDNP facilitated and helped fund around 60 Neighbourhood Plans to help inform its Local Plan. Their Local Plan makes provision for several thousand houses, including affordable homes, in “dispersed growth across the National Park.” A Dorset National Park would help meet communities’ housing needs, including for the truly affordable homes that local people including young families need. So, a National Park would help achieve the right development in the right places, where it is needed. Dorset CPRE wants to see as much as possible of rural Dorset included in the National Park.

There would be positive benefits for all of Dorset’s communities from a National Park. National planning policy would enable the Dorset Council to partner with the Dorset National Park to establish a local methodology for assessing housing need for the whole of the Dorset Council area, not just the area within the National Park. So, in place of central housing targets Dorset would be able to decide what was appropriate for Dorset.

In a National Park, 75% of its Members are elected councillors, two thirds of these are Members of first tier authorities (in Dorset’s case, this would be the Dorset Council) and one third are Members of town or parish councils. This ensures local democratic involvement and gives town and parish councillors a say for the first time in establishing the Local Plan and in planning decisions, thus increasing local engagement and accountability.

A Dorset National Park would replace the AONB and would not involve another major reorganisation nor bring another layer of bureaucracy. The Dorset Council would remain the lead local authority throughout rural Dorset. It would retain responsibility, for example, for overall strategy, education, social care, public health, highways and various other functions. A Dorset National Park, with its duties and funding to care for our unique environment and heritage, promote health and wellbeing, and foster the economic and social wellbeing of communities, would partner with the Dorset Council. It would bring additional resources and expertise, helping to secure a thriving, sustainable future for Dorset’s communities and economy; caring for Dorset’s environment and heritage; improving health & wellbeing; and helping us all to address the climate and ecological emergencies.

National Parks are core funded by central Government and are not a charge on residents or businesses. A National Park would bring additional resources and enable Dorset Council funds to be released to spend on other county-wide priorities. Independent studies suggest that a National Park would boost Dorset’s economy by many million pounds every year. All of Dorset would benefit.

The Government has reaffirmed its manifesto commitment to create new National Parks and to start the designation process this year. Dorset is the outstanding candidate to be England’s next National Park. We should seize the benefits this would offer our communities, economy and environment. Future generations will not forgive us if we miss this opportunity. The Dorset National Park proposal is to be considered later this year. The National Park team has accepted an invitation from Natural England to be involved in the further assessment of the Dorset proposal which has been shortlisted for further evaluation later this year.

See an independent study of the strong case for as much as possible of rural Dorset to be included in the proposed Dorset National Park:


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