National parks 'under threat'

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The Independent Online
National parks are being threatened by new roads, quarries and heavy artillery moved to Britain from Germany.

New legislation is urgently required to give them independence from local authorities and higher priority in government planning, the Council for National Parks said yesterday.

The Ministry of Defence is planning to deploy multiple rocket launchers and 45-ton self- propelled guns for troop training in Northumberland National Park. The guns are so heavy that it will be necessary to upgrade 46km (28.58 miles) of roads throughout the National Park and build gun spurs to stop them sinking into the peat.

Chris Bonington, the president of the Council for National Parks, said: 'Only a year ago we were told that the Government is committed to a wind-down of military activity in national parks. The shooting ranges in Northumberland should only be extended if there is absolutely no other way of doing it.

'National parks received over 100 million visits last year. It is important to preserve these wild parts of the British Isles as places of escape and inspiration.'

The council is also worried about proposals for six quarries in the Yorkshire Dales, Dartmoor and Snowdonia. Plans to upgrade roads in Snowdonia and the Peak District will also cause serious damage to the environment, Mr Bonnington said. A trans-Pennine highway has also been planned along the route of the A628, linking Manchester and Sheffield.

After the report of the National Parks Review Panel in 1991, the Government promised new legislation to enable national parks to be run independently. At present, eight out of ten are run as committees of local authorities. However, the promised legislation was dropped from the Queen's Speech after the election.

'The problem is becoming acute because some local authorities are threatening to withhold funding this year,' Mr Bonington said. 'Every day developers try to grab more of the countryside and we need adequate laws to protect the best of our endangered and fragile landscapes.'