How Britain “celebrated” 100 years of National Parks
|1872||Creation of the world’s first national park, at Yellowstone USA.|
|1929||Government inquiry, chaired by Mr. Addison, into the possibility of creating National Parks in Britain.|
|1936||First meeting of the Standing Committee for National Parks – forerunner of today’s Campaign for National Parks. SCNP produced a number of manifestos and pamphlets over the next few years, all arguing the case for National Parks, and urging the Government to act.|
|1936||Sir George Stapledon proposes (in The Land Now and Tomorrow) a Plynlimon National Park.|
|1945||The Dower Report – a government white paper – is published, and advocates the creation of National Parks.|
The Hobhouse Report is published, including a detailed list of 12 proposed National Parks and 52 proposed “Conservation Areas” (many of the latter have subsequently received different kinds of designation, most commonly as AONBs). “Plynlimon” and “Elenith Mountains” are proposed as Conservation Areas. Click for map
|1949||The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act enables the establishment of National Parks, with the purpose of preserving and enhancing their natural beauty and promoting their enjoyment by the public.|
|1951-7||Creation of the first ten National Parks.|
|1965||National Parks Commission formally agrees to proceed towards the designation of a Mid Wales National Park.|
|1966||Meeting between NPC and Welsh Office at which the idea of a Mid Wales National Park is “well received”.|
|The five county councils which would be affected by a Mid Wales National Park are informally consulted by the NPC, which takes action to try to resolve “certain difficulties” before the start of formal statutory steps for designation.|
|1968||Countryside Act replaces National Parks Commission with a new Countryside Commission.|
|1969||Countryside Commission establishes a Committee for Wales.|
|Committee for Wales informed at its first meeting of Commission’s intention to designate the Cambrian Mountains National Park as part of the Yellowstone centenary celebrations planned for 1972.|
|Informal consultations reveal 4 of the 5 county councils are opposed.|
|Meeting between representatives of the Committee for Wales and of the County Councils.
Councils felt to be “less hostile”; Brecon the “main opponent”.
|Meeting between representatives of the Committee for Wales and of NFU, CLA and FUW.|
|1970||Start of formal consultations.|
|At CPRW Annual Conference, Minister of State for Wales, David Gibson-Watt, “strongly supports proposed designation”.|
|A few months later, reports emerge that the Minister of State is opposed to additional National Parks.|
|CLA decides to oppose designation.|
|1971||Formal consultations show most councils still opposed, plus landowners’ organisations.|
Consideration and agreement of revised boundary (excluding roughly 110 square miles – 19% – of the originally proposed area) in an attempt to meet concerns of opponents.
|Committee for Wales recommends proceeding with designation.|
15th August. Publication by Countryside Commission of the Order designating the Cambrian Mountains National Park (467 square miles) and its submission to the Secretary of State for Wales for confirmation.
|Over the next few months, objections are received from all five county councils, 5 of the 7 district councils, 5 parish councils, NFU (and branches), FUW, CLA, Plaid Cymru, CPRW (and branches) and others. Three letters of support, from Ramblers’ Association, YHA, and Cyclists’ Touring Club. Non-committal submission from Wales Tourist Board.
Expectation that Secretary of State would institute a Public Inquiry “in due course”.
|1973||June. After several months of silence from the Welsh Office, rumours are rife. Fearing a decision without any consultation, the Chairman of the Countryside Commission writes to the Minister of State asking for a meeting.|
|July. The Secretary of State for Wales has announced in Cabinet his decision to reject the National Park designation. There is consternation in the Department of the Environment (which has close links with the Countryside Commission) at the unprecedented rejection of an NP designation. A letter is drafted from DoE to Welsh Office; memoranda fly between senior civil servants in the two departments, and between ministers and civil servants. Final letter is short, too deferential – and much too late.|
|16th July. Countryside Commission Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Director invited to meet Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Thomas, at the Welsh Office in London. He is accompanied by the Minister of State, David Gibson-Watt, and three officials.
Secretary of State states that he intends to reject designation because of the “massive evidence of objections”, and also to reject any public inquiry because “I cannot envisage any evidence which would lead me to change my mind”. (See note * below)
He refuses to enter into further discussions, saying it is a straightforward political decision.
|17th July. Without any warning (even to the Countryside Commission) and in a written answer to a Parliamentary Question from Caerwyn Roderick, MP for Brecon & Radnor, Secretary of State for Wales publicly announces his decision not to confirm the Order.
An official letter is delivered to the Countryside Commission shortly afterwards (3pm) at the same time as a Welsh Office press release is issued.
Countryside Commission rushes to prepare a response, which comes at 6.15pm in a press release headed “Countryside Commission deeply dismayed”.
|10th August. Countryside Commission sends very strongly worded letter to Secretary of State for Wales, regretting the decision and the manner of its delivery, challenging the grounds given for it and the decision not to hold a public inquiry, and criticising the Welsh Office for its failure to consult with the Commission in the run-up to the decision.|
|1975-6||Investigation of the decision not to hold a public inquiry, by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman), following complaints by several voluntary bodies that rejection of proposed designation without a public inquiry was contrary to well-established practice in the case of a major proposal of public interest and, in addition, was a clear breach of previous undertakings by Ministers that an inquiry would be held if it was evident that there was considerable opposition to the proposal. The Ombudsman’s report is longwinded and even-handed, but blandly concludes that the Welsh Office and its ministers had done nothing wrong.|
|* But he probably could envisage a General Election, and may consequently have been anxious to ensure that the final decision was his, and not his successor’s. As it happened, that election came unexpectedly just a few months later, in February 1974. Had a public inquiry been held, it would have reported its findings to a newly appointed Labour Secretary of State …….|