The aspect of rural problems to which I wanted to draw attention in this debate is that in which areas are designated within a national park. Much of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is in my constituency. Some people there are beginning to have doubts about whether a national park is an advantage and whether it does not itself contribute to depopulation and stagnation.
The designation of these areas was a wise and far-sighted act of this House for the protection of the countryside in general. I have the privilege of living in a delightful village in my constituency in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. I am only too well aware of the need to preserve its beauties and amenities, but the present cumbersome arrangement of administering national parks leads to a great deal of frustration and delay. What is wanted is a speeding up of the processes where applications require planning permission.
A constituent has written to me on this subject as follows:
At present all applications for the licence to build new premises or alter and improve old ones must be referred to the Parks Committees for final decision. In the West Riding these are all inspected by the Divisional Planning Officer at Skipton and long and entirely unnecessary delay is often caused. I am aware of one case which took two years to reach decision. It may be that the terms of reference make some attempt to protect the public against this delay, but in reality this is inoperative.
This is a typical example of the frustration which occurs. I know of one case in which a small rural industry wished to expand its premises. After
two years of delays and frustrations with the various committees and planning offices which it had to go through, it abandoned its project, and the business went elsewhere. Not only do we have endless delays but they often end with a final refusal to grant the necessary permission.
This applies not only to industrial development and buildings but also to such a simple matter as a request by a villager to put a covered porch on the front of the house to protect him from the elements when the front door leads directly into the living room. He finds that he is not allowed to do this.
The committees in question may decide to visit the site. My constituent writes:
In the event that it becomes necessary for the committee to inspect a site, then the party should be severely restricted from the absurd cavalcade which appears at present, all drawing detention allowance and often mileage allowance from council funds.
Many speakers have referred to the transport problems in rural areas. Where licences to operate buses are given or renewed, I should like the traffic commissioners to insist that the services are co-ordinated with the times of the railway passenger trains. We say that our trains are not used as much as they should be used, but often the bus from a remote rural area arrives just as the train has left or without sufficient time for the traveling public to link up with the train.
Another problem with which we are confronted in rural areas arises from the enormous increase in road traffic. At the moment there are 7½ million cars on the roads. In 1965 it will be 8½ million. In 1970 it will be 12 million motor cars. In the Dales areas, which are adjacent to prosperous industrial towns, this causes a special problem. People from the towns like to spend their week-ends motoring in the Dales. The provision of car parks has become extremely important. The cost of these has to be found as to 75 per cent. by Government grant and 25 per cent. from the local rates, and we complain locally that local ratepayers should not be called upon to make any contributions for a facility which will be used only by people who are not dwelling in the area.