Parks Beyond Borders: Boundary Changes And Mining Challenge UK Parks

Natural England has proposed changes to the boundaries of Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks that have triggered a review of the proposal. An article by Chris Story published by In-Cumbria said the plan would add “200 square-miles of highly-protected countryside,” a move that has led “five councils – including Cumbria county and Eden,” to lodge objections that require a hearing.

“The inquiry will be held in June,” said the article, “with a pre-inquiry hearing next month. After the inquiry, the inspector will make recommendations to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who will decide whether to modify, approve or reject the plans.” The hearing is expected to last four weeks.

“Proposed changes to the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park include taking in parts of the Orton Fells, the northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang to the north and including Barbon, Middleton, Casterton and Leck Fells, the River Lune and part of Firbank Fell and other fells to the west,” said the article.

Lake District National Park changes would “see the inclusion of an area from Birkbeck Fells Common to Whinfell Common in the east of the park, and in the south an area from Helsington Barrows to Sizergh Fell and part of the Lyth Valley.”

Natural Environment Minister Richard Benyon said, “Over 3,000 objections, representations or expressions of support were received in response to the proposals, including objections from five local authorities,” said In-Cumbria. That triggers a “statutory requirement that a public inquiry is held” and “I have therefore commissioned a public inquiry into the recommended boundary changes."

Lake District National Park chief executive Richard Leafe took a “can-do” approach to the proposed changes. “We have always taken the position that we will manage whatever shape and size national park we are asked to look after,” he said. “We believe these areas will have a positive contribution to make to the future well-being of national parks and that people will see the benefits to Cumbria of their communities being given national park status.”

Though the changes are being challenged, Leafe says, “Clearly on landscape values alone the areas being considered merit inclusion into a national park.”

A Massive Mine for Yorkshire Moors?

Speaking of landscape values, an article in The Guardian says Yorkshire farmers may net a £1bn and create 1,000 jobs if a plan is approved to “mine the world's largest deposit of potash, a powerful fertiliser, in an ancient seabed deep below the North York Moors national park.”

Within the boundaries of UK parks, towns and private land co-exist with more protected landscapes, thus a mine is not entirely out of the question. The article by Rupert Neate said “Chris Fraser, a former investment banker, has submitted a planning application to mine” the deposit. Fraser has been planning the mine for a decade, and he said “exploratory boreholes showed the moors held ‘the world's largest and highest-quality resource of polyhalite,’ a mineral-rich form of potash.” According to the paper, the mine will be the biggest new mine in Britain in a generation.

The article said the planning application “is supported by the local council and all neighbouring MPs,” and that if approved by North York Moors national park authority, landowners “could be in line for a lottery-style windfall because Fraser's company, Sirius Minerals, has promised to pay out more than £1bn in royalty payments over 50 years.”

Jason Murray, finance director of Sirius, said, "Some of them (local farmers) will become very wealthy. There will be a few new tractors around the area." Murray assured the paper that, "As much of it as possible will be underground, and what is above ground will look like farm buildings. It won't look like a traditional mine."

The national park authority will stage a 16-week evaluation. The article said the “Campaign for National Parks said it was ‘very concerned about the negative environmental impacts of locating such a significant development in a national park.’ A spokesman said the law prevented Sirius from building the mine inside the national park if alternative sites were available, and said Sirius had ‘not provided an adequate explanation’ as to why it could not locate the mine outside the park.”

Traveler footnote: For another story about potash and national parks, see today's feature on Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.