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Countryside Commission (Wolds Way)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th June 1975.

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Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Stockport North 12:00 am, 19th June 1975

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) has illustrated the growing concern in the country and the public's impatience at the fact that the Government have not yet announced their decision on the Sandford Report—the Report of the National Park Policies Review Committee—and declared their strategy for leisure in the countryside. We have waited a long time for that answer. I hope that the wait will be worth while. Until the Government announce their decision, it is difficult for the Countryside Commission to co-ordinate its research rôle in the national parks or to take new initiatives.

The Sandford Report amply illustrated that during the last 10 years the demand to use the countryside for leisure has expanded rapidly. Yet, sadly, during that period the commission has worked slowly, and we have seen not one single new national park designated.

The commission has recognised that on many occasions too many people go to too few areas and destroy the very things for which people go to the countryside. There have been a few small experiments to see whether such conflicts can be eliminated, but the commission has done useful work in the marking of footpaths and has been involved in the drawing up of national park plans, which the parks have to prepare by 1st April 1977.

Almost all this work is out of scale with the size of the problem. The Sandford Report suggested that we needed more national parks, particularly in the South of England and areas where there are substantial populations. That report was produced before the oil crisis. Surely the need for more of these facilities closer to the areas where people live is even greater nowadays, but at the moment I understand that the Countryside Commission has no proposals for new national parks.

I turn to the question of footpaths. I stress the fact that the Countryside Commission is putting forward only one or two proposals for paths per year. We require one or two of these proposals to be put forword each month. I ask the Minister to put pressure on the Countryside Commission to bring forward scores of new designated routes per year rather than to say that no new proposals are to be put forward this year. I hope that we shall hear in the Minister's reply a major announcement by the Government of their strategy in implementing most of the Sandford Report and in giving the Countryside Commission new powers to get on and manage the countryside for the benefit of vast numbers of people who want to enjoy leisure there.