Plans for a New National Park in Southern England

Recently, the board responsible for reviewing the value of national parks has called for evidence to support Dorset and Devon’s bid to have some of their outstanding natural coastal areas gain national park status. The independent Glover Review, who review whether natural land in England should become national parks, are currently considering a few areas in the two South-West counties.

A report from the Dorset National Park Team claims national park status would turn Dorset into an ‘economic powerhouse’. A spokesperson has announced the plans to motivate those with a vested interest in the Dorset economy to “come together and support a vision for Dorset that can benefit our outstanding county and the whole country”.

The bid, which has been ongoing for several years, attempts to involve the local community. Whereas past attempts for a Dorset National Park were about natural preservation, this plan aims to create higher paid job opportunities in tourism. This view is backed up by the fact that unemployment rates in areas surrounding national parks are half the national average.

Areas of nature in Dorset’s districts such as Poole, Weymouth and Swanage are currently marketed nationally as natural tourist attractions, but the quality of Dorset’s natural environments means they are seen as important enough for national park status. The report points out that national park title would boost the brand of Dorset, making the county more valuable to businesses and investors.

Gold Standard cultural heritage and a World Heritage coastline are major selling points of the case for Dorset National Park. East Devon and Dorset are already registered as AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) due to the biodiversity of their countryside and unspoilt beaches.

The case for natural development reads “[The potential National Park] offers a unique opportunity to help reverse the decline in our environment, make this the home for ambitious and innovative businesses and help our farmers and land managers to diversify and thrive in new markets…”

The proposed area of national park land covers geographically and historically important landscapes. Dorset’s Jurassic Coast skyline in Weymouth is one of the oldest coasts in the United Kingdom, where prehistoric fossils can be found. Every type of rock from Early Jurassic and Eocene eras can be found there.

The proposed area includes an area of additional heathland habitat which helped to inspire Thomas Hardy’s setting of ‘Egdon Heath’ in the classic novel, The Return of the Native. The heathland is described as “a vast tract of unenclosed wild” and exists as such today.

National park status will hopefully increase the amount of affordable housing and improve public transport for locals, on top of business opportunities for hotel or bed & breakfast owners. It would, according to the National Park Report, help to promote Dorset to tourists and increase the amount of people relocating to the South Coast.

The review is open for locals to provide their thoughts in support (or otherwise) of Dorset National Park until Tuesday 18th December.